Detroit Tigers: What's wrong with Riley Greene?

Detroit Tigers v Baltimore Orioles
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Why is Detroit Tigers' OF Riley Greene struggling so much?

Detroit Tigers' OF Riley Greene was the No. 1 prospect in baseball when he was called up in June last year. His minor league numbers were great and he had that classic sweet left-handed swing. He seemed like he was primed to be a great player.

But in 2022, he was just kind of...pedestrian. Not bad, but not very good either. He slashed .253/.321/.362 in 418 plate appearances. That was good for a 98 wRC+, just below league average. It may not have been an impressive rookie season, but his potential was still sky-high and there was plenty to build off of.

The first half of spring training in 2023 was very promising. He was hitting homers deep to the opposite field. He was hitting the ball incredibly hard. He looked like he was ready to break out in a huge way.

But then the second half of spring training happened, and he started rolling the ball over at an alarming rate. He was hitting everything on the ground to the pull side. It wasn't really something that was super concerning considering it was just spring training, but it was something to take note of.

Fast forward to April 25. We're almost a month into the 2023 season, and Riley Greene is looking pretty rough. In 21 games, he's slashing .224/.283/.341 with two home runs—both to the opposite field—and a 76 wRC+. Perhaps most alarmingly, he's striking out 35.9% of the time and hitting the ball on the ground 57.7% of the time. That's the sixth-highest ground ball rate in the league.

In addition, Greene is second in the league in a stat called negative at-bat percentage. A negative at-bat simply adds ground balls, pop-ups, and strikeouts together and divides by the number of at-bats. Greene has a negative AB% of 68.5%, trailing only Jazz Chisholm of the Miami Marlins. The stat was created by Justin Schultz.

Riley Greene is having a rough start to the season. He can't lift the ball to the pull side and his strikeouts are up. So what's the deal?

At this point, it's got to be a swing issue. There's got to be something in his swing mechanics that is causing him to swing-and-miss and roll pitches over at an alarming rate.

It would help if he could just lay off pitches off the plate, low and away. According to Baseball Savant, Greene has swung at 40% of low and away pitches he's seen, and has struck out on 60% of those. Pitchers have found his weakness and exploited it. His average launch angle on down and away pitches that he has made contact with is -24 degrees. Making an adjustment there would be a good start.

But I think his issues go beyond just making an adjustment in his plate approach. His average launch angle is 4.2 degrees, which is the sixth-lowest in the league. That wasn't an issue for him in the minors. He had no problem lifting the ball and hitting for power. That's been a huge issue for him in the majors, and it shouldn't be.

Riley Greene has all the talent in the world. He's a great athlete. He has the prospect pedigree to back it up. He shouldn't be this bad. I'm no swing doctor, but I think Greene could stand to make an adjustment to his swing.

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