May 10, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Shane Greene (61) pitches in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Greene’s sparkling start followed by disastrous downfall has been well documented over the start of this season. On Sunday, Greene bounced back for the Tigers. He is showing that he is an inconsistent pitcher right now, but his skill level is somewhere between his four terrific starts and three abysmal ones and he will have non-polar starts in his future.
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In the 2015 season, when Greene has been good, he has been really good. When he has been bad, Greene has been really bad. In his first three starts, Greene went 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA, 23.0 IP, 12 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 11 K, a .160/.213/.200 split, and 0.739 WHIP. In his second three, Greene went 0-2 with a 16.36 ERA, 11.0 IP, 23 H, 20 R, 20 ER, 6 BB, 10 K, a .460/.517/.720 split, and 1.237 WHIP. In his latest start, Greene went 8.0 IP with 4 hits, 1 earned run, no walks and 3 strikeouts.
Greene has a stark contrast between his righty/lefty splits. Entering Sunday’s game, Greene had career splits of .228/.295/.340 against right handed batters and .300/.372/.426 against lefties. Teams know this is one of Greene’s major flaws and load left handed batters into their lineups. Greene needs to either change his pitching pattern to lefties, or develop another pitch to make sure his sinker and changeup do not leak over the plate. If a left handed batter sees a slider out of the hand, he knows it will be inside. If he sees a sinker or changeup, it leaks over the plate away from the lefty.
On Sunday, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon made up the middle of the Royals order. They got to Greene in the second with back-to-back doubles in the second inning, but the second and third times through the order, Greene retired those three in order. Overall, the Royals’ four left handed batters in the order went 4-12 with a single, two doubles, and a triple, which is consistent with his career numbers.
Another one of Greene’s problems is the fact that when it rains, it pours. With the bases empty, Greene had a career split of .249/.316/.331 entering Sunday’s game. Those numbers elevated to .294/.368/.469 split with runners on base. Greene held the Royals to 1-7 with runners on base, with the only hit being the second of the back-to-back doubles.
The simplest improvement Greene made between his last two starts was just throwing strikes. In his 8 innings on Sunday, Greene threw 66 strikes on 96 pitches compared to 26 strikes on 57 pitches in his previous start against the Chicago White Sox.
Greene’s bounce back on Sunday could be a sign of improvement, or just an up in the midst of an inconsistent season. He has the arm to shut down some of the best lineups in baseball, but he will need to consistently find the zone and limit the success of left handed batters to take the next step in his progression.