On Saturday Shane Greene made history as the only starting pitcher in MLB's modern era to give up five home runs in less than two innings of work. Greene was tagged for seven runs on six hits, while only recording five outs. Unfortunately, it was only Greene's second-worst start of the year according to Bill James' Game Score metric. He gave up eight runs in four innings against the Cleveland Indians on April 24 for a game score of 11, "beating" his 15 from Saturday's game against Los Angeles.
According to Brooks Baseball, three of the five home runs Greene allowed came off of his sinker. FanGraphs' pitch values show that Greene has the third-worst sinker (which they are classifying as a two-seam fastball) in baseball this year, worth -6.9 runs. Only Pittsburgh Pirates starter Jeff Locke and Atlanta's Julio Teheran have worse two-seam fastballs this year.
Greene has thrown six different pitches this year -- although the curveballs may be misclassified sliders -- and opponents are hitting his sinker at the highest rate.
Greene has thrown his sinker 343 times, over 100 times more than his second-most pitch, his cutter. He's obviously relying heavily on it, as it is part of the reason he induced such a high ground ball rate in 2014. We all know that in order for a sinker to be effective, it has be down in the strike zone. On Saturday, he threw 12 sinkers, but only two of them were down in the strike zone. Four were right down the middle.
The next graph shows where in the strike zone the batters got base hits. In this case, all three hits were home runs.
All three homers were hit down the middle or up in the strike zone.
The fix for this could be a simple mechanical adjustment. The other alternative is to pick a different pitch (like the four-seamer or cutter) as his primary fastball and use that pitch to set up his secondary pitches. On both of those fastballs, batters are hitting under .200 against.
One thing is for certain, though, a change is in order.