The Detroit Tigers announced their starting pitchers for their upcoming series with the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday. Righthander Shane Greene is slated to take the mound on Sunday night, five days after his 4-2/3 inning, five-run start against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday. Greene now has a 6.52 ERA in 77 1/3 innings this season, and has allowed at least five earned runs in seven of his 15 starts.
He deserves another start.
Before you throw that rotten tomato at my face, angry audience member, hear me out. Greene was blown up in the first inning of his last start, allowing four runs on four hits (and a hit-by-pitch) before the Tigers even came to bat. Four of the six left-handed batters that came to the plate in that inning reached base. Lefties have provided a consistent challenge for Greene all season long, batting .354/.407/.591. Miguel Cabrera is hitting .350/.456/.578 this year.
After that inning, however, Greene was much better. He allowed two hits -- one a home run from Tiger-killer Nelson Cruz -- and one unintentional walk before departing with two outs in the fifth inning. If you're keeping score at home, that's a 2.45 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in an extremely small sample against arguably the worst offensive teams in baseball. It's poor statistical analysis on my part, but we're not looking for statistical analysis here. We're looking for a glimmer of hope.
Before Greene's start on Tuesday, Jeff pointed out that Greene has been unable to locate his sinker down in the strike zone this season. Because of this, opponents have teed off on it at a .364 clip with a .585 slugging average. Greene threw 31 sinkers in 84 pitches, a 36.9 percent clip that is roughly in line with his season-long usage rate.
However, 14 of those 31 sinkers came in the first inning, when Greene threw 26 pitches. After that, Greene only used the sinker 17 times in 58 pitches, a 29.3 percent usage rate. He opted for his cutter as his primary pitch instead, throwing it 27 times after the first inning. Opponents are batting .247 with a .407 slugging average off of Greene's cutter this season. This isn't good, per se, but the cutter also isn't turning opposing hitters into Barry Bonds like Greene's sinker is.
To sum up:
|Pitch||1st inning (bad)||Innings 2-5 (less bad)|
I don't know who deserves credit for an in-game adjustment like this. Catcher Alex Avila seems like an easy choice, but it's possible that the coaching staff caught sight of something too. Regardless, it was one that went unnoticed amid the fire and brimstone that the bullpen's late inning shenanigans provided. If Greene sticks with this cutter-heavy approach against the Red Sox, it's possible that we see a start closer to the relatively stress-free innings he provided after his shaky first frame.
Of course, this all hinges on the Tigers standing pat for the next four days. If they acquire Johnny Cueto or Scott Kazmir before Sunday evening, by all means, let him start. If he's not the one being sent elsewhere in the deal, Greene will likely be heading back to Toledo. If he's still around? Give him the ball. It might just work out.