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Shane Greene’s mechanical adjustments have made his stuff better than ever

Thanks to some adjustments coming into the season, 2018 will be the year of the Greene Machine.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Shane Greene has become a regular face in the Detroit Tigers clubhouse. At this point, he is one of the few players remaining from more optimistic times in Detroit. Entering his fourth season in the Olde English D, Greene has become a focal point of the Tigers’ rebuild.

Greene first hit the Tigers’ mainstream at the beginning of 2015 by starting three consecutive games with just one earned run allowed in 23 combined innings. The wheels fell off shortly thereafter. A string of injuries shelved him for four of the next seven months of baseball between 2015 and 2016. Following those stints on the disabled list, Greene was turned into a full-time reliever. He again made a name for himself in a hurry, and eventually took over the closer’s role in August 2017. Over the final two months of the season, Greene closed out nine out of 10 save opportunities with a 2.49 ERA, and a batting average against of .241.

Coming into 2018, expectations for Greene have risen exponentially. Unsurprisingly, he has responded well so far this season. His ERA is inflated at 4.91, but the two runs he allowed came in one rough appearance. He improved upon this in his next outing; despite giving up a couple of baserunners, none of them scored. Since that rough first outing, Greene has made a point to improve, and has converted both of his save opportunities thus far. The first happened in a two-run extra innings victory where Greene walked one batter, hit another batter, and struck out the side swinging. The second came in a one-run game; Greene worked a clean 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout.

This early season success may be partly due to some changes in his release point that he implemented since we last saw him in 2017. As Brandon noted in an previous article, the Tigers pitching staff is already demonstrating substantial changes that seem to be heavily influenced by new pitching coach Chris Bosio. That definitely seems to ring true for Greene as well, given he has made drastic changes to both his release point and pitch usage thus far. Although it’s early in the season, release point isn’t like changing your grip on a pitch or your pitch sequencing. A lot of work goes into any release point adjustments, even very small changes. To see such large changes in Greene’s release point says he and Bosio are onto something big.

The charts below illustrate the changes to the release point Greene has made between 2017 and this season. (Note: With these release point charts, a horizontal release point has a larger number when the pitch is released closer to the body and vertical release point has a smaller number it means the pitch is released closer to the body).

Slider and Cutter Release Points
2SFB and 4SFB Release Points

Changes in Greene’s Releases

Pitch H-Change V-Change
Pitch H-Change V-Change
Cutter 0.32 ft 0.02 ft
Slider 0.31 ft 0.02 ft
2SFB 0.45 ft 0.11 ft
4SFB 0.50 ft 0.01 ft
* Postive Number = Pitch Released Closer to Body

Since making these release point changes, Greene has added over four inches of horizontal movement to his slider and 1.75 inches of movement on his cutter, as well as slightly increasing his two-seam movement. According to Baseball Prospectus’ PitchFX leaderboards, Greene’s cutter has the second-highest horizontal movement among 100 starters and relievers who have thrown at least one cutter so far this season. His slider ranks third in horizontal movement among 299 starters and relievers who have thrown at least one slider this season.

The graph below shows the changes in horizontal and vertical movement on the slider and cutter between 2017 and this season.

Slider and Cutter Pitch Movement

The secondary stuff from Greene has definitely cropped up and is the real story here by far, however his two-seam fastball has been particularly devastating as well. Although it’s not ranked the best in horizontal movement (ranked 37th with 8.61 inches of movement) or in terms of velocity (16th with 94.67 mph) the two-seamer has been his most effective pitch this season by pitch value.

Additionally, Greene hasn’t thrown many four-seamers this season at all, only two in total. As a result, his main pitch is the two-seamer. Greene is not afraid to use it in any count. As the video below shows, the late break he has on that pitch is the real reason it has been so effective this season.

In fact, Greene’s two-seamer was so nasty on Sunday that it has more votes for “Nastiest Pitch” on the Pitcher List, beating out recent Los Angeles Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani and his splitter. This isn't the only time Greene has made the famed Pitcher List. In fact, he won “Nastiest Pitch” on the Pitcher List earlier in the season, this time for an incredible slider he showcased when he shut down the White Sox in an extra innings victory on April 5.

There’s no denying Greene has looked better than ever before. It’s a little early to pen him as a contender for reliever of the year [Ed.: Well, sort of], but if he continues on the path he’s currently on, he is likely to finish among the very best relievers in the American League.