The New York Yankees starting rotation overachieved during the 2017 postseason, but can stand to improve in 2018. Brian Cashman, the team’s general manager, announced last week that bullpen pitcher Chad Green will open next Spring Training as a starter.
Chad Green: More Joba Chamberlain or Luis Severino?
Prior to the 2017 season, not much was expected of Green. He made his MLB debut in 2016 and performed less than stellar in his n 12 games.
He pitched to the tune of a 4.73 ERA, making eight starts and appearing out of the bullpen four times. But this past season, Green went 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA in 40 appearances, before running out of steam during the postseason.
Green’s Career Thus Far: Better Reliever or Starter?
Green’s professional career began in 2013, when he pitched in 12 games for low-level minor league teams for the Detroit Tigers organization.
He was 4-0 with a 3.54 ERA, with 10 of those appearances coming in relief. While these numbers were far from awe-inspiring, when coupled with his stuff, they were promising. Green would go on to spend the entire 2014 season with the West Michigan Whitecaps, starting 23 games and pitching to a 3.11 ERA. Though in 2015, after being promoted to Double-A, things began to tumble downhill.
In 27 starts, he went 5-14 and racked up a 3.93 ERA. Green struggled to adjust to the higher level of competition, which led to an increase of almost two in his H/9 and 0.7 in BB/9. Nevertheless, the Yankees were impressed enough with his potential to deal reliever Justin Wilson to Detroit for a package of Luis Cessa and Green, who were both intriguing prospects.
While Green’s aforementioned minor league numbers were decent, his Triple-A stint with Scranton-Wilkes Barre in 2016 was thoroughly impressive. His WHIP dipped to below one and he had just a 1.52 ERA in 16 starts.
Oddly enough, when Green got his chance to make his MLB debut in 2016, it became clear that he wasn’t ready—at least as a starter. In eight starts, he allowed 24 earned runs in 36.1 innings (5.94 ERA); while in four games as a reliever, Green pitched 9.1 shutout innings.
Fool Me Once Shame on You…
Yankees upper management has flip flopped talented young pitchers between the starting rotation and the bullpen before, but it has been with limited success.
Fans will remember the infamous “Joba Rules,” which some argue ruined the team’s electric pitching prospect Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain was a flamethrower, who was one of the team’s most talented pitchers at a very young age. Although, a private—and public—debate over how to best utilize Chamberlain ensued. He, much like Green, had a highly successful first season as a reliever.
In 2007, his rookie season, Chamberlain went 2-0 with a 0.38 ERA in 19 appearances. Green’s WHIP this season was narrowly lower than Chamberlain’s in 2007 and his K/9 was tick higher, thus making the comparison all the more obvious. The next season, Chamberlain split time between the bullpen and the starting rotation and had a solid year. He had a 2.76 ERA as a starter and a 2.31 out of the bullpen, with an innings limit forcing him to go back and forth.
In spite of such, in 2009 it became quite clear that he was much better suited for the bullpen. He spent the entirety of the regular season in the rotation and did not perform nearly as well. His ERA skyrocketed to 4.75, his WHIP went up from a 1.256 to a 1.544, and his K/9 (his calling card) dipped to below 10 for the first time, where it would linger for the rest of his major league career.
Chamberlain went on to have a long-lasting, albeit disappointing career in the bullpen, but many argued that the team’s inability to give him a consistent role early on hurt his growth.
Fool Me Twice…
Phil Hughes also made his MLB debut for the Yankees during the 2007 season, but his came in the starting rotation. Hughes had stuff which rivaled that of Chamberlain and Green, but the organization believed that he was better suited for the starting rotation. Notwithstanding, his best season came in 2009.
In 2009, Hughes appeared in 51 games and started only seven of them. His ERA as a starter was a whopping 5.45, while out of the pen he pitched to a 1.44. Additionally, Hughes’ strikeout-to-walk ratio more than doubled and he nearly cut his WHIP in half, when working out of the pen. Despite his success out of the bullpen, Hughes has been a starter ever since. He’s pitched to the tune of a 4.47 career ERA and rarely approached his 3.03 ERA in 2009.
The Definition of Insanity
Many starting pitching prospects pitch from the bullpen early on in their career, like David Price, Adam Wainwright, and the like. Although, the Yankees organization has left their fan base scarred by the perceived botching of talented youngsters like Chamberlain and Hughes.
It is worth noting though, that Luis Severino struggled as a starter in his sophomore season and excelled from the bullpen in limited opportunities. Nevertheless, when Spring Training came around, Girardi and Cashman held steadfast that he was going to be a starter and that seemed to work out well this season.
Only time will tell if Green is more Chamberlain or Severino, but it’s abundantly clear that the Yankees front office is more than willing to keep rolling the dice.
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