Lately I’ve seen a lot of people saying Shane Greene shouldn’t be our closer, and with how his last two games have gone, I understand why. However, I personally completely disagree with this, and I decided I was going to look to the stats to see if there was anything backing my opinion.
I went into my research knowing that I have a bit of a bias towards Greene due to how much I have enjoyed him on the 619 podcast (This is a podcast Shane Greene and Nick Castellanos do together that just recently started. It is basically them just talking baseball and life, and I personally really enjoy listening to it. It has definitely helped break the barrier between player and fan for me and has made me feel personally connected to both Castellanos and Greene. You should check it out on Apple Podcasts.). However, I did think that I saw a pattern in how Greene performed based on when he came into the game. So I got up an Excel sheet and opened up Baseball Reference and got to work. Below are my findings, starting with Greene’s game logs sorted by what sort of an appearance they were.
*Note: D=Down (he came in when the Tigers were down a run or two), N=Normal (he came in during the 9th inning, but the Tigers were up by more than 3 runs so it wasn’t a save opportunity), SVO=Save Opportunity (he came in with the opportunity to get a save, whether he pitched a little in the 8th or not), and T=Tie (he came into a tied ballgame). Also, I used .33 and .67 for one third of an inning pitched and two thirds of an inning pitched instead of .1 and .2 just because it made calculations easier.
|Save Opportunity (SVO)||2.01||0.94||11.69||22.33||21||5||29||22|
Digging into this data, you can see a very strange pattern. When Greene enters a game with a chance to earn a save, he generally pitches quite well. His ERA (2.01), WHIP (0.94), and SO/9 (11.69) are all amazing. In fact, if these were his overall numbers, we would consider him and elite, lockdown closer. However, these aren’t his overall numbers as his overall ERA is a large 4.14, so something must be holding back his stats.
Looking at his normal appearances and appearances when the Tigers are down, his WHIP is quite high (1.6 and 1.5), but the sample size is so small (7 appearances and 7IP) that it is hard to call that good evidence. He has also prevented runs from scoring even with the high amount of traffic on the bases. Until the sample size becomes larger, I do not this this data has much merit, even if the higher WHIP shows that Greene has his best stuff when he is closing tight games.
However, looking at Shane Greene’s appearances when games are tied, we see a whole different story. He has given up a remarkable 11 runs in 7.2 innings, along with allowing 15 hits and walks combined. On top of this, he has only struck out 6, giving him a SO/9 well below his overall SO/9 (7.04 to 10.22). In his 9 appearances when the game is tied, he has given up a run more times than he has not (5 to 4). Even though the sample size is small, I think the sheer drop off of his stats proves that tie games are Shane Greene’s kryptonite and the reason some fans view him as a bad closer. To further the point, Greene’s last two appearances were tie games, and he took the loss in both of them.
Overall, even though you generally want your best pitcher in the game in tie games, putting Shane Greene in tends to lead to bad things. In normal save opportunities, Shane Greene is stellar, but his overall stats are extremely inflated due to how poorly he performs in tie game situations. I was honestly surprised at how well the stats lined up with my hypothesis, and I think this proves that Shane Greene should be our closer. We just need to be careful when we use him.