The New York Yankees revolve in a whirlpool of interest with every game, action, roster move, etc., covered from multiple angles. Under such scrutiny, no player is truly anonymous, but, Chad Green has been nearly so. Ever since Domingo German went down with an injury and the Yankees had no other starters available, Chad Green has been the "Opener" for the Yankees and has sort of become lost in the shuffle of attention. While I watch constant walks the last four innings of relief outings on winning nights, I wish that were not so.
If you have followed this blog along its bumpy course, you know that I hate everything that happens to do with this Opener thing. It is one part of my old-fashionness that I cannot seem to get out of my system. I can live with defensive shifts because batters can break it and do not. But there is something about Openers that rub me in all the wrong places.
The fact that the Tampa Bay Rays started it probably has something to do with it. The Rays are the "smart" team. The Rays are the "hip" team. The Rays are the "scrappy" team. Blech. Give me a root canal instead. I was dreading the Yankees copying the "smart" team and going with an Opener. When German went down with his hip problem, the Yankees could not wait to jump into the Opener pool. It is embarrassing to me.
While saying all that, I do have to admit that the decision to pursue such a personally embarrassing course has worked. And it has worked spectacularly. The Yankees have employed the tacky tactic six times and have won each of those games. The last three games Chad Green has pitched have been as the Opener. He has six "starts" or "opens" altogether.
The unfortunate thing for Green in these outings is that he gets little recognition. He cannot get a win. He cannot get a Hold or a Save. He cannot get any juice on the leverage index. All he can get is a pat on the back. Of his six starts, the second pitcher has gotten the victory four times. David Hale won the earliest one. Chance Adams won the second. The bullpen blew the lead but got the win later in the game in the third. Nestor Cortez Jr. has won two and the later bullpen got the sixth. All those wins and Chad Green got an inning or two in the box score.
It is too bad that so few people have noticed because Green has been awesome in his outings beginning the last week of May. Most know that he was truly horrible to start the season. His first ten outings led to an OPS against of 1.228. His ERA was 16.43 and his WHIP was 2.478. Brutal. He was sent to the minors, regained a bit of his mojo and came back to the Yankees.
Green was better in May after his call back to the Big Leagues. He still struggled a bit early in that callback. He finished the month with a 4.70 ERA and 1.304 WHIP. But he walked only one and struck out ten in 7.2 innings pitched. He was approaching more Chad Green historical numbers.
Starting with his last two appearances in May and now all of June, Chad Green has been spectacular covering eight appearances. He has not given up a homer, walked only one batter and struck out 20 batters in 11.1 innings pitched. He has given up one run in that span. His ERA for June is 0.96 and his WHIP is 1.071. If you toss out his one less than stellar relief outing in Toronto on June 6, he has been nearly perfect.
But here's the thing. Chad Green's last three appearances have been Opens. The Yankees have won them all, of course, but Green has not pitched in any games in between those Opens. So basically, this again stellar Chad Green is pitching two innings every fifth day. While he is thus employed, every time a Yankee starter goes five innings (which is nearly every night), and the team is winning closely, there is no option but going with Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman. Missing Dellin Betances does not help. But neither does missing Chad Green. Oh, the Yankees can throw Jonathan Holder out there if they feel like blowing the lead and having to fight to get it back.
Chad Green seems ready to resume his killer innings in high leverage situations but cannot as long as he is the Opener. Meanwhile, games like Saturday night where the latter three relievers could not throw strikes and yet somehow survived will sooner or later start turning into losses because you cannot live that close to the edge all the time. That quartet has to be getting tired and all the extra pitchers they are throwing does not help.
At the same time, the Open games are all wins and none of them happen without Green pumping in those strikes and being a beast. What winning percentage would there be if a Chance Adams or someone had been plugged in there? It wouldn't be 1.000. Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German are expected back around the All Star Game. Maybe that will help. The top four relievers are giving me a great deal of heartburn while a Chad Green who could help is toiling anonymously at the front of games, albeit very successfully.