By the numbers: Aaron Boone’s decision to lift Chad Green for Adam Ottavino

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Chad Green was brilliant last night — he threw two shutout innings in relief of James Paxton. But, when Houston’s top of the order came up in the fifth inning, Aaron Boone decided to lift Green in favor of Adam Ottavino. At the time, the Yankees held a 2-1 lead. It was 2-2 after Ottavino’s first pitch to Springer:

That was the definition of a flat, hanging slider. It’s no shock that Springer hit this pitch 418 feet:

(Baseball Savant)

Of course, the decision to lift Green looks terrible in retrospect. Unfortunately, Ottavino made a bad pitch and Springer made him pay. He recorded two more outs around an infield single before getting pulled for Tommy Kahnle, but the damage had been done.

Was it a bad move to remove the rolling Green? Let’s take a look at what the numbers state. In a sense, Boone’s preferred matchup for the first hitter, Springer, could boil down to Green’s high velocity, high spin fastball vs. Ottavino’s typically nasty sweeping slider. Here’s how Springer has done against those types of pitches since Statcast tracking began in 2015:

  • Fastballs, 95 MPH or greater and 2,400 RPM or greater: 359 pitches faced, .314 wOBA, .357 xwOBA
  • Sliders, 2,700 RPM or greater: 106 pitches faced, .317 wOBA, .324 xwOBA

Keep in mind that Green’s fastball averaged 96.4 on the radar gun this season and had a 2,465 RPM spin rate. Meanwhile, Ottavino averaged 2,877 RPM on his slider this year and had the fifth-most horizontal movement on the pitch in baseball, per Statcast. Also, Ottavino’s fastball and sinker check in just below 94 MPH and 2,400 RPM. Green’s slider only has a 2,251 spin rate and is below average in terms of horizontal movement.

Frankly, the numbers are pretty close. On one hand, Springer’s expected numbers vs. elite sliders are worse than against Green-like fastballs. But, Green was also cruising at the time.

(Baseball Savant)

For the most part, Springer does well against pitches up in the zone. If anything, Green could have pounded him up-and-in with fastballs as the chart above indicates. However, Springer also has a tough time against pitches down-and-away, which is where Ottavino undoubtedly wanted to throw his slider last night.

Further, and though I doubt the Yankees care about batter vs. pitcher matchups, Ottavino has had success against Springer in the past. The two have opposed each other three times in the past and Ottavino struck out Springer every time. Against Green, Springer was 2-for-4 with a double and no strike outs.

In any event, Green and Ottavino are both elite relievers. Both are more than capable of getting Springer and the rest of Houston’s offense out. Sadly, Boone’s decision to call for Ottavino backfired last night. It’s easy to Monday Morning Quarterback the decision now, but based on the data, Ottavino was a very good option for Springer. It just didn’t go in the Yankees’ favor.

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12 Comments

  1. Bill Toncic Jr

    Many of us weren’t Monday Morning QBs,we were Sunday Night QBs. Stick Michael once said”I use analytics as a tool but I also believe in what I see as a tool”. Anyone who has watched #0 for over a month has seen that he’s not the same.As a matter of fact, Mike Axisa posted this A.M. on his Patreon blog that #0 has faced 14 batters in the postseason & 7 have reached base.He also cited that in #0’s last 7 regular season appearances,he gave up a run in 5 of those! He’s not the same guy as he was earlier & it’s time to re-evaluate his usage!

  2. RetroRob

    Removing Green was fine. Ottavino was signed for situations like this. He didn’t do his job. The bullpen, overall, though did a good job, limiting the Astros to just two runs over 7 2/3rds+ innings. The Yankees hitting didn’t get the job done last night. They had opportunities. On to game 3. Hopefully the Astros have played their final home game of the 2019 season.

  3. Thanks for a bit of objectivity in a sea of (pardon the mixed metaphor) Monday-morning quarterbacking.

  4. TCF16

    The one guy I didn’t want to see was Ottavino. He’s been looking like he can’t pitch for a while now, and he’s the guy that comes in, of course.

  5. Gotta take into account that Green’s fastball is a four-seamer, as well as the fact that Otto is a righty (Springer murders sliders from lefties).

    This season:

    xwOBA vs RHP 4-seam fastballs: .487 (.486 high-spin)

    xwOBA vs RHP sliders: .382 (.354 high-spin)

    Statcast era:

    xwOBA vs RHP 4-seam fastballs: .414 (.395 high-spin)

    xwOBA vs RHP sliders: .280 (.260 high-spin)

  6. Otto isn’t getting the job done. So far, none of this is Boone’s fault. Going forward, how will Boone deploy Otto will be interesting.

  7. wendellx

    Boone will cost us a couple more games before this is all over. The Yankees will have to win despite him. I’ve never seen a manager make more mistakes with a pitching staff. It’s cost us home field with all the games thrown away during the season, and now it’s cost us a crucial game in the ALCS. Green could have gone an extra inning, and Chapman has pitched 7 innings since Sept. You could have gone another inning with him. Just these moves stretches you out to avoid having to bring in Happ, CC, or Loisiaga.

    • Brian M

      Blaming Boone is a lazy take. Does he get any credit for making the difficult decision of yanking Paxton early and keeping it a one run game?

    • Toney

      Excellent points! Boone’s learning curve as a manager looks pretty much like a pancake. Yanking Paxton was, however, a good move – and a no-brainer.

  8. mikenyc

    A point I think people have missed was that Green will likely have to face the top of the order in Game 4…the less they see of him the better ( esp is he is basically a one-trick pony), so when that gets weighed with past performance/need to get Otto involved etc, it should haven’t been a surprise for any of us

    • aaronjudgemvp

      Can’t worry about a later game in the playoffs. Win the game in front of you

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