The opener has been effective, but the Yankees need Chad Green in the bullpen

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Since Domingo German hit the injured list earlier this month, the Yankees have deployed Chad Green and Nestor Cortes every fifth day. Although this wasn’t part of the plan before the season, it’s been quite effective. Take a look at what they’ve done in the last three turns:

Name GIPK/9BB/9HR/9ERAFIP
Chad Green36.018.001.500.000.00-0.32
Nestor Cortes311.08.180.821.643.274.00
Total317.011.651.061.062.122.48

The duo has been nothing short of excellent as the club’s de facto fifth starter. Perhaps that’s due to the abrupt change in look opponents see once Cortes comes in. Green starts off with blazing fastballs whereas Cortes comes in with all sorts of arm angles and pitch speeds.

Nonetheless, why this has been so successful is a story for another day. Rather, despite the merit of the Green and Cortes combination, the bullpen would benefit from having Green back. Yesterday, he pitched in relief for the first time since June 6th.

Because Green pitched yesterday, he won’t start tonight. Given the two off days upcoming and Domingo German’s expected return next week, there’s a decent chance he’s back in the bullpen for an extended period again. This is a good thing; it pushes Jonathan Holder and Tommy Kahnle back in the pecking order.

Kahnle has been mostly good this season, though he has allowed runs in three of his last seven appearances. Probably just a rough patch, but considering how Green has looked, Kahnle should probably take a step back behind Green. Holder, on the other hand, has been dreadful. He got bombed last night and was demoted thereafter.

Fortunately, despite Kahnle’s recent woes and Holder’s season-long issues, Aaron Boone didn’t have to use either of the two in high leverage spots while Green was in the rotation. Neither have entrance leverage indexes above 0.63 since June 6th, which is very low. Still, that wasn’t going to last forever. After all, he had to use Holder in a two-run game against Houston last weekend, and that did not go well. More of that was coming down the pipeline because Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino can’t pitch every inning before the ninth.

Thus far, Boone has done a good job not running Ottavino or Britton into the ground. Since Green became the opener, Ottavino and Britton have thrown 6.1 and 5 innings a piece. That makes for under a 60 inning pace over a full season. But, part of that is because they haven’t been needed as often during the team’s recent strong play. If Green were to remain in the rotation, surely those two would eventually feel added pressure. And as mentioned, on the flip side, Holder and Kahnle could pitch more often in order to prevent overuse. Not a good combination!

In addition to the concern about using Kahnle and Holder more often, the bullpen is already a man down in the first place. Dellin Betances, arguably the team’s best reliever, has been out all season with no timetable for return. Consequently, using Green to start every fifth day has put the ‘pen down two pitchers.

Now, just because German should be back next week doesn’t mean the rotation will be infallible. German is on an innings limit and the Yankees have no shortage of starters with injury concerns. In an ideal scenario, Luis Severino will rejoin the team after the break, but that’s still a ways away. A lot can happen between now and then which would require Green to be an opener once again.

After what we saw from Green to start the year, it’s kind of funny to think about how much he’d help the bullpen now. But it’s true; he’s been mostly excellent since his return from the minor leagues. Hopefully, German is ready to go next week and Severino not too long after. That’d allow Green to remain where he fits best.

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5 Comments

  1. Brian

    Here’s a question for you… How do you have a negative FIP?

    • Derek Albin

      Heh. I know it looks weird…but it is possible given how it’s calculated. High strikeout totals (like Green) help drive down FIP a lot.

  2. Costanza

    Green is still starting tonight, but it will be great to have him back as an actual bullpen piece soon. Hopefully we start seeing him used later in games between starts. If he’s effective, there’s no reason he has to be limited to only 2 IP every 5 days.

    • overseasyankeefan

      It is not 2 innings/30 pitches or so every 5 days. It is the interval between pitching and resting days. As one commentator laid out in the other post, day 1 as an opener means he won’t pitch in day 2 and unlikely in day 3 (barring a back-up emergency plan). And if he pitches on day 4, it will intervene his current role as the designated opener. Until Domingo German comes back next week after their London trip (provided that everything goes according to the plan), Chad Green’s workload will remain as it has been.

  3. NotSoCasualFan

    It’s been effective for them so far this year. I do think this as a 162 game strategy is flawed and ultimately will lend itself to the effectiveness of traditional starters without 97+.

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