The new season is a week old and gosh, there’s a lot of noise out there. It’s difficult to know what’s meaningful and what is, well, noise. DJ LeMahieu is 6-for-12 (.500) at the plate right now. When LeMahieu does that later this year, in June or July, we won’t think twice about it. When it happens at the start of the season, omg what a great signing!
It’s easy to get carried away in the early days of a new season but much of what we’ve seen is lies. It’s just the usual randomness of baseball. One of the few things we do know for certain right now is Chad Green is still trying to develop a pitch to play off his fastball. His fastball will always be his bread-and-butter. He needs something else to keep hitters honest though.
Since arriving for good two years ago, the slider has been Green’s primary secondary pitch. It’s not any good, but it seems to be the secondary pitch he is most confident in. Since last August though, Green is working to reincorporate his splitter into his arsenal. He shelved the pitch following the move into the bullpen and he’s now trying to bring it back. Look:
Green has made two appearances this season and thrown 31 total pitches: 25 fastballs, four splitters, two sliders. He threw three of the four splitters to one batter, the lefty hitting Rio Ruiz, in his season debut Saturday, and the locations were, uh, not good. Even with the typical splitter movement, these are fat pitches out over the plate:
The top splitter was fouled away. The middle splitter generated a swing and a miss. The bottom splitter was sliced down the left field line for a double that led to an insurance run. Leave enough splitters up and over the plate and you’re going to pay eventually, and Green did.
Monday night Green threw his only other splitter of the season and it had good enough tumbling action, but was taken for a ball. We certainly haven’t seen Green throw many pitches that move like this since he arrived for good in 2017:
The results of four individual pitches early in the season are irrelevant. The important thing is Green is still trying to make that splitter work. He brought it back in the second half last season, when it became apparent the fastball only approach was losing effectiveness, and it is something he’s sticking with now. This experiment remains in progress.
For Green, the goal is not so much to develop the splitter (or slider or whatever) into a legitimate putaway pitch, though that would be very cool. The goal is to create something to keep hitters off the fastball. Put something else in the back of their minds so they can’t sit on the heater, which showed diminishing returns last year.
Can the splitter be that pitch? Geez, I hope so, but this isn’t a new pitch — Green threw the splitter regularly during his time as a starter — and I’m not sure how much improvement can be expected. Maybe the Yankees can help him improve the splitter in a way the Tigers couldn’t. Not much we can do now other than wait and see.
As good as he’s been the last two years, Green’s profile is not built especially well for the long haul. Fastball velocity and spin rate matter to him much more than most guys, so any normal age-related losses could have a significant impact on his effectiveness. It’s been clear he needs something else to continue being this effective. The splitter is his latest attempt to develop that something else.