In the history of baseball, literally hundreds of thousands of games have been played. So, I’m sure it’s not the first time that a starting pitcher did what the Tigers’ Shane Greene has done through 6 games. Still, I don’t remember seeing anything quite like it. Here is Greene’s season so far, split into halves.
First 3 starts: 23 innings pitched, 0.39 ERA (that’s 1 earned run allowed over 3 games), 0.74 WHIP. Detroit’s record, of course, was 3-0 in these games.
Last 3 starts: 11 innings pitched, 16.36 ERA, 2.64 WHIP. Detroit actually won 1 of the 3, thanks to the offense putting up 10 runs (last week at Minnesota).
The Shane Greene of the first 3 starts would shatter records that have stood for decades. So would the Greene of the last 3 starts, just in the opposite direction. So what gives? Who is the real Shane Greene?
The answer is that – you guessed it – he’s not nearly as good as he showed in his first 3 outings and not nearly as bad as he showed in his last 3 outings. To pinpoint it a bit more, he’s a guy who should be a solid #3 starter down the line. This is his first full season in the big leagues, as he debuted last year and pitched a total of 78.2 innings, all but 0.1 as a starter. It is quite a jump to go from that to the 150 or more he will likely pitch this year.
As I was thinking about what to write in this piece, I remembered a less extreme example of Greene’s start to this season. This will be familiar to Detroit Tigers’ fans: Max Scherzer in 2010. Now, Greene and Scherzer are very different types of pitchers, but the comparison is based on the lack of experience of each at the point in time under consideration.
Scherzer came into 2010 with 46 Major League appearances under his belt. This is more than Greene, but still very young in MLB starting pitcher years. Chronologically, he was 25, while Greene is 26 now.
Through his first 4 starts that year, Scherzer had a 2.62 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. In his next 4 starts, he had a 13.50 ERA and a 2.33 WHIP. At this point, the Tigers sent him to Toledo to work it out. And that’s exactly what he did – he returned two weeks later and posted a 2.46 ERA and 1.13 WHIP for the rest of the season (over 23 starts). It took him until 2013 to become the consistently very good pitcher that he is now, but he was on his way after this brief stint in the Minors in 2010.
(It is super helpful to have a resource like Baseball Reference to find these game logs.)
Considering all of that, the Tigers should send Greene down to Toledo if his next start is similar to the last three. It sounds like Buck Farmer would be capable of filling in, and there is no sense in letting Greene get shelled much longer. Young pitchers often need time to clear their heads and to work out flaws in the much-lower-pressure environment of AAA.
With all of that being said, I think I know who the real Shane Greene is, and Tigers fans will be very glad that Dave Dombrowski acquired him over the winter. Not only is he going to be a good pitcher, but his contract is very team-friendly. This will help the front office to continue to build a well-rounded team over the next few years.
On Friday, I’ll talk about some other Tigers-related questions. For now, it’s time to win the series against the White Sox!