Detroit Tigers: Shane Greene or Robbie Ray?

Apr 5, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Shane Greene (61) celebrates with Tigers catcher James McCann (34) after defeating the Miami Marlins 8-7 at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Shane Greene (61) celebrates with Tigers catcher James McCann (34) after defeating the Miami Marlins 8-7 at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Tigers were involved in a three-team trade in 2014 that essentially swapped Robbie Ray for Shane Greene. Greene is looking to bounce back, while Ray is looking to build on a strong season with Arizona. Looking back, Detroit may have been better off with Ray.

Detroit Tigers management made a trade in 2014 which was crucial to the shape of their current roster. This off-season, Shane Greene won the Tigers fifth starter spot after the young lefty Daniel Norris suffered a back injury. Some may suggest Greene backed into the final spot in the Tigers rotation but the 27-year-old right-hander out dueled effective young pitchers such as Matt Boyd and Kyle Ryan.

The Tigers are banking on Greene living up to the potential they saw in him that led the team to acquire him after his strong 2014 campaign with the New York Yankees.

To acquire Greene however, the Tigers dealt a young lefty named Robbie Ray, one of their top prospects at the time who had made a few appearances in Detroit. After Greene made his first start of 2016 Wednesday and Robbie Ray had his start into the season, Tigers fans cannot help to wonder what their rotation could have looked like.

Greene got off to a rough start in his first start of 2016 before settling down and pitching an impressive game. His first inning featured 35 plus pitches while surrendering two runs.

Regretfully wishing there was a reset button on this game Greene pitched a gem from the second inning on giving up only three hits and striking out seven batters. Greene is trying to bounce back from a injury filled and disappointing 2015 season.

Detroit Tigers
Apr 5, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Shane Greene (61) throws in the eleventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

After starting last season hot Greene finished the year 4-8 with a 6.88 ERA and pitching for the Toledo Mud Hens, trying to get healthy and regain the electric stuff he had while pitching in New York.

Greene, who is healthy again following offseason surgery, looked to be back in top form during innings 2-6 Wednesday.

His fastball sat around 94-96 mph and all four pitches were located effectively. The cutter was especially sharp for Greene against the Pirates generating around 20 percent swings and misses.

The game was smooth sailing after a rocky first inning but the slow start for Greene should not be ignored.

Traditionally Greene is better earlier in the game and struggles a second and third time through the lineup. His career 4.70 ERA in the first three innings of games is not overly impressive but it is much better than his career 6.90 ERA during inning 4-6 of games.

More from Detroit Tigers News

The newly formed Detroit bullpen should help late in games but the Tigers would like to see more consistent games out of Greene with the ability to get into the sixth and seventh inning of games.

Robbie Ray was not originally drafted by the Tigers as he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in 2013 in the trade that sent Doug Fister to the nations capital. Greene and Arizona Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray will forever be connected because they were part of the three team deal that also sent shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Yankees.

Ray saw limited innings with the Diamondbacks in 2015 going a mere 5-12 while posting an impressive 3.52 ERA in his 127 2/3 innings of work. Ray and Greene are similar pitchers in a lot of ways. Ray features five pitches with a fastball that sits around 96 mph though it has been known to touch 98 mph at times.

A big difference in Ray’s performance during his transition to Arizona was the addition of a sinker and a curve ball. While pitching in Detroit, Ray only featured a fastball, a changeup and a slider.

More from Motor City Bengals

With a now-broadened arsenal Ray is able to use his newly developed pitches to set up his already effective movement on his slider. His slider is an amazingly effective pitch for Ray to improve upon each year.

Doubling in swing-and-miss rates from his time in Detroit, Ray’s slider generated around 8.8 percent swings and misses with the pitch in Detroit and 19.3 per cent whiffs in Arizona last season. Ray has had a much lower ERA than Greene in his career and even gets better as he goes deeper into games posting a 3.86 ERA in innings 4-6.

Even coming off a down year, Greene was not a total lost cause last season and even showed reason to believe that there could be a resurgence in 2016.  Greene was able to walk 7.2 percent of batters last season which was down from the previous year. The 27-year-old is not necessarily the strikeout pitcher Robbie Ray can be.

Having not struck out more than 80 batters in a season, Greene pitches to contact using his sinker to generate ground balls. Although he struggled with the pitch last year Greene’s sinking fastball did cause a ground ball 51 percent of the time in 2014. Wednesday against the Pirates, Greene also featured only four of the six pitches he has been known to throw. Using the fastball, sinker, cutter and slider Greene was able to located each pitch and not have to worry about his less effective curve ball and change up.

Next: The Tigers Are Playing Good Baseball at PNC

Ray has moved on and is looking for success in Arizona. Greene is currently looking for success in Detroit. To say one has been more successful than the other is not fair; but, it is a fair question to ask if the Tigers would be better off with the young lefty Ray on their roster this season.

This could all be for naught however as Greene could be relegated to the bullpen upon Daniel Norris‘ return from the disabled list. That is for Brad Ausmus to decide but the fans can decide among themselves who they would rather have. Greene or Ray?