For starters, at just 26 years of age, Shane Greene still has some developing left to do. He didn’t even log a 100-inning season in pro ball until 2011.
In addition, as a pitcher that works with a variety of pitches, that means he’s not only has he been limited on the innings to develop them, but each pitch has gotten less work, because he’s had more pitches to work on over that workload. If a guy throws three pitches and has a 100 pitch outing, roughly speaking, he’ll throw each pitch 30 or 40 times. If a guy throws five pitches and has a 100 pitch outing, again roughly speaking, he’ll throw each pitch about 20 times. Multiply that out over the course of a season, or a career, and that’s a lot of refinement lost.
When Jeff Jones was asked about Greene’s repertoire, he stated he’s now focusing on five pitches, one less than what he’s worked on over the last few years. “He throws a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a slider, and a changeup,” said Jones (he previously tried using a curveball as well, but is no longer deploying it).
On where the Tigers have been focusing their efforts with him this year, it’s been primarily around the use of his changeup, again according to Jones: “Our big focus this spring has been his changeup, because he hasn’t thrown it a lot in the past and he has a good one. So we’ve talked about it numerous times and he threw a lot of them today that had a lot of action and just try and get him confident in it.”
And that issue of confidence is something that has popped up a couple times now with Greene.
TigsTown spoke at length with PinstripesPlus publisher Patrick Teale, who covered Greene for years as a member of the Yankees, and said that the biggest issue with Greene was never his repertoire. While it has taken time to develop and refine, his fastball, slider, and changeup have always had plus potential. What he’s lacked is the confidence in the pitches.
From Teale: “He was the sort of guy that had great stuff, but wouldn’t trust it. He’d try and nibble on the corners or hit a specific spot, and would end up trying to be too fine and not throw strikes. He’d end up throwing too many balls, falling behind hitters, and either walking them or putting the ball out over the plate for them to hit.”
As the PinstripesPlus scouting report from last off-season on Greene said; “He was simply a case of a pitcher who wouldn’t – not couldn’t – throw enough strikes.”
At some point, Greene found that confidence, began trusting his stuff, and started seeing results. His walks dropped and his overall effectiveness improved.
Teale’s belief on Greene overall was that even when Greene was struggling, and was left out of the Yankees’ top 50 prospects entirely, he was still a sleeper that was worth watching, because of the stuff that he had. By last year, he was in the top 20.
And his thoughts on the trade? “I thought it was a bad trade for the Yankees – I understand why they did it, they needed a shortstop, but I think they’re going to regret giving up on Greene. Because he’s going to be a what, number four for the Tigers? A number four or five, but most days he’s going to pitch like a number three, and some nights he’ll pitch like he’s a number one.”
That’s high praise from a guy that has been covering the Yankees for well over a decade.
So what does Jones think about Greene, overall, having had the chance to work with him these past few weeks, after seeing him in person last season? “He’s even better up close. You can always get a pretty good read on a guy when he’s pitching against you, but so far this spring he’s been throwing a lot of strikes with all of his pitches.”
We won’t know how good Greene is going to be until the season actually gets going, but in addition to the advanced metrics that say the 2014 season wasn’t a fluke, you have the Tigers pitching coach extremely confident in him, and a long-time observer that thinks most nights he’ll pitch better than his number four slot. That’s some a couple more notable and significant votes of confidence that the Tigers got a good one in Greene.