Who has been the Detroit Tigers’ best reliever in 2016? Well, Francisco Rodriguez is the closer and has the lowest ERA on the team at 2.70. Justin Wilson has the most strikeouts (46), the lowest FIP (1.61), and the highest fWAR total (1.5). But former starter Shane Greene makes a case for himself with the second-highest RE24 total, at 7.50.
RE24* might be the best overall stat to use when looking at relievers because it takes context into consideration. A reliever can give up as many inherited runners as possible and still maintain a 0.00 ERA. RE24 corrects that by calculating runs saved and allowed based on the changes in base-out states in every play. Greene has inherited nine runners so far this year and none of them have scored, resulting in a positive RE24.
It’s incredible that Greene has the highest RE24 as it is an accumulated stat (such as RBI for hitters) and Greene only has pitched 21 2/3 innings in relief (not enough to show up on qualified relievers lists). Tom Tango has come up with a way to convert RE24 into a per-nine stat similar to ERA or RA/9, so that pitchers with different number of innings can be compared more accurately.
How good is he? Among relievers who have thrown at least 20 innings this season, Greene ranks seventh in the American League in RE24 per nine innings at 1.51.
*Editor's Note: You can read a primer on RE24 here.
Greene also ranks eighth in the AL with a 1.95 FIP, 13th in WHIP (0.93), and 16th in swinging strike percentage (14.9 percent). He ranks higher than all other Tiger relievers in these categories. Not only has Greene been the best reliever on the Tigers this year, but he has been one of the best in the American League.
One thing that has been different about Greene has been his pitch selection. Since becoming a full-time reliever on June 4, Greene has thrown his cutter 44 percent of the time, up from about 30 percent from last year. And because he doesn’t have to pace himself to go multiple innings, he has gained about two miles velocity on the pitch. It has improved from 87 miles per hour in 2015 to 89 mph in 2016. This has been a good compliment to his slider, thrown about 21 percent of the time (up from nine percent last year). By significantly reducing his lesser quality pitches and focusing on the cutter/slider combination, Greene has become dominate in relief. Starting pitchers usually need at least three pitches in order to be effective, but Greene has shown that relievers can get by with only two pitches.
It's time for Ausmus to give Shane Greene more high leverage situations. According to FanGraphs, Greene has pitched six and a third innings in high leverage situations this year, facing a total of 21 batters. Only four of them have reached base, one hit, one walk and two hit by pitches. Opponents have a .143 wOBA against him in these situations. It's a small sample, but Greene has earned to be trusted in more higher pressure situations.