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:
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.
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.