So maybe Brandon McCarthy was right. On the day the Detroit Tigers acquired Shane Greene from the New York Yankees, then-teammate McCarthy tweeted that Greene would wow fans with his "stupid electric stuff."
Consider us impressed.
Aside from a brief hiccup in the first inning of Wednesday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Greene looked sharp, holding the Bucs to two runs on three hits and three walks in six innings. More importantly, Greene struck out seven, something he only managed to do one time during his subpar 2015 season. The strikeout touch that enticed the Tigers to acquired Greene in the first place -- he struck out 23.4 percent of the batters he faced in 2014 -- appears to be back, and not a moment too soon for the strikeout-starved Tigers.
To illustrate how much better Greene's stuff was on Wednesday, one only needs to look at the velocity of his pitches. In 2014, Greene's fastball sat in the 93-94 mile-per-hour range, with a cutter averaging nearly 88 miles per hour. Both of those averaged tailed off a bit in 2015, when Greene only threw his fastball 92-93 miles per hour and the cutter around 87. On Wednesday, Greene threw 41 cutters averaging 89.2 miles per hour, according to Brooks Baseball.
The change becomes more drastic when you look at how Greene's velocity changed month-by-month. August 2015 excluded -- he only pitched one inning in relief -- Greene's fastball and cutter velocity dropped off considerably as the pseudoaneurysm in his right arm progressed.
Greene's velocity wasn't the only positive indicator from Wednesday. His pitches also featured a lot more life, inducing plenty of awkward swings from the Pirates lineup. Greene tallied 13 whiffs on 97 pitches, a 13.4 percent swinging strike rate. He matched that total in his first start last season, when he dominated the Minnesota Twins in a 7-1 victory, but only totaled 13 swings and misses in his next two starts, striking out six combined hitters.
Anyway, enough of the chit-chat. Let's watch some GIFs.
Greene's real eye-opening moment came in the first inning when he made former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen look foolish. Greene fell behind in the count 2-0, but then unleashed a 91 mile-per-hour cutter to get strike one.
He followed that up with a nasty 95 mile-per-hour fastball on the inside part of the plate, inducing another swing and a miss.
One thing Greene did very well on Wednesday was to "move east to west" in the strike zone, or work on both halves of the plate. After backing McCutchen up with the fastball for strike two, Greene went back outside with a cutter/slider for strike three.
That was a sequence of three consecutive pitches in which Greene made a former NL MVP and five-time All-Star look foolish. McCutchen isn't the toughest dude to strike out -- he's slightly better than league average, if we're keeping score -- but as we saw later in the game, he's one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. Doing that to him and the rest of the Pirates lineup for six innings is a very encouraging sign.
Again, it's early. Greene looked sharp in his first three starts last season before falling off, but the uptick in velocity combined with the swing-and-miss stuff we saw on Wednesday should leave Tigers fans feeling a bit more positive than they otherwise would. If Greene can help solidify the back of the Tigers' rotation, it would go a long way towards pushing them back into the AL Central race.