A Number of Shane Greene Comparisons

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

Last week, the Tigers pulled of a three team deal that netted them RHP Shane Greene in exchange for Robbie Ray and Domingo Leyba. It was a nice move by the club and while Greene doesn’t have a smashing minor league track record, a very solid stretch of 78.2 MLB innings certainly indicated ($) he has it in him to perform well in the show.

Many people have written about Greene from just about every angle. Let’s run down what we know:

  1. Greene wasn’t a high pick or a top prospect
  2. Green didn’t perform well in the minors until 2013
  3. Greene was quite good in 78.2 innings in 2014
  4. Greene has 6 years of team control left
  5. Greene is a “sinker-slider guy,” but also features a cutter (pretty good), four-seam (developing), and changeup (developing, but potentially very quickly)
  6. Greene owned the Tigers in 2014

That about covers the outline of the Greene narrative. He doesn’t have a killer pedigree, but he showed some promise last year and there are new pitches in his arsenal. On top of that, he has some legitimate velocity, so this isn’t an 89-90 guy who happened to have a good month or two.

My thinking on the matter is that Greene is certainly better than Ray and Leyba and is a cheaper version of many of the good depth signings I wanted for the rotation. The move is good. The scouting reports and numbers are tracking up. There are questions, but no one is complaining.

So let’s turn this on it’s head and look for pitchers like Greene over the last several seasons. Who did the Tigers get if we base this on the pitchers who were similar to the 2014 version of Greene?

Let’s start with 2014. Let’s take pitchers with an both ERA- and FIP- +/- of 5%  of Greene’s 96s with at least 70 innings as a starter.

  •  Chen
  • House
  • Archer
  • Chavez
  • Kuroda
  • Collmenter
  • Kazmir
  • Liriano
  • de la Rosa
  • Vargas
  • Garza
  • Cosart
  • Harang
  • Lackey
  • Leake
  • Lyles

Those are pitchers from 2014 with 70 innings as a starter who had an ERA- and FIP- between 91 and 101. That’s no one’s idea of an all-star roster, but for the most part those are solid back end starters or a little better in some cases. It’s not the kind of group you aspire to be in when you’re seven, but it’s the kind of group that makes $8M to $12M a year for 3-4 year deals.

Now let’s try pitchers who struck out 21-25% of batters (23% for Greene) and walked 7-9% (8% for Greene). Same qualifications:

  • Gonzalez
  • Kennedy
  • Odorizzi
  • Richards
  • Cole
  • Ross
  • Hamels
  • Hutchison
  • Beckett
  • Chavez
  • Santana
  • Anderson
  • Miley
  • Archer
  • Wacha

Now that’s some group! An ace or two. A bunch of number two types. Solid mid-rotation arms otherwise.

Now let’s try within two percent of his swing (45%) and contact rates (78%).

  • Smyly
  • House
  • Anderson
  • Odorizzi
  • Lester
  • Matzek
  • Dickey
  • Shoemaker
  • Gio
  • Bauer
  • de la Rosa
  • Kennedy
  • McHugh
  • Jackson
  • Cobb
  • Arrieta
  • Wood
  • Locke
  • Estrada
  • Miley
  • Hammel
  • Vargas
  • Cole
  • Keuchel
  • Wheeler
  • Lincecum
  • Elias
  • Gray
  • Hahn
  • Archer
  • Beckett

It’s a longer list and there are a range of names. Some great, some not great, but mostly pretty solid. If you do what Greene did last year, you’re among a very solid group of starting pitchers.

Let’s do two more things. First, let’s take this entire collection of pitchers and look at their 2012, 2013, and 2014 numbers:

  • 2012: 4570.2 innings, 54.7 fWAR, 105 ERA-, 102 FIP-, 20.2 K%, 7.6 BB% (2.4 WAR/200 IP)
  • 2013: 5432.2 innings, 65.1 fWAR, 99 ERA-, 100 FIP-, 19.6 K%, 7.8 BB% (2.4 WAR/200 IP)
  • 2014: 7815.2 innings, 101.8 fWAR, 97 ERA-, 98 FIP-, 21 K%, 7.7 BB% (2.6 WAR/200 IP)

Finally, let’s take a look at how all of these pitchers performed in their age 25 (Greene in 2014), 26, and 27 seasons (some obviously aren’t that old).

  • 25: 4302.2 innings, 63.7 fWAR, 94 ERA-, 96 FIP-, 20.2 K%, 8.2 BB% (3.0 WAR/200 IP)
  • 26: 4547 innings, 62 fWAR, 97 ERA-, 98 FIP-, 20 K%, 7.7 BB% (2.7 WAR/200 IP)
  • 27: 3963.2 innings, 62.7 fWAR, 94 ERA-, 92 FIP-, 20.9 K%, 7.8 BB% (3.2 WAR/200 IP)

Looking at those numbers isn’t that surprising. The pitchers who were like Greene in 2014 were also about average in 2012 and 2013 and they were all pretty consistent from ages 25-27. We don’t know that Greene is definitely going to look like they did, but if you had to wager, it seems like a decent bet.

There’s no way to know exactly what the Tigers have in Greene, but despite the poor early number in the minors, this is a valuable skill set that should continue to be valuable over the next few years. Is Greene going to track at the bottom, middle, or top of the group? No idea. But if you can make any judgments based on one’s MLB comparables, things look just fine.

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