Greene’s reunion with the Braves didn’t go well at all.
Through the early part of the season, the Atlanta Braves were faced with trying to patch together a bullpen that at its best was inconsistent and at its worst was just plain bad. They were hoping that a reunion with Shane Greene would help the situation, but it didn’t turn out that way.
Greene was originally a 15th round selection of the New York Yankees in 2009. He made his major league debut in pinstripes in 2014. He was traded to the Tigers as part of a three-team deal between the Yankees, Detroit and Arizona that also involved Robbie Ray and Didi Gregorius, among other players. Greene appeared in 243 games for the Tigers before he was traded to the Braves at the deadline in 2019 for Joey Wentz and Travis Demeritte.
Greene, along with Chris Martin and Mark Melancon helped solidify Atlanta’s bullpen for the 2019 stretch run and were part of the Braves capturing a second straight division crown. Greene played a part in the team’s success in 2020 as well, posting a 2.60 ERA and a 3.81 FIP in 28 games (0.3 fWAR). Greene’s good numbers were despite a declining strikeout rate and his peripherals suggested that regression was in his near future, given that his 2020 featured a 57 ERA- but an 86 FIP- and a scary 107 xFIP-. Perhaps as a result, Greene struggled to find any market during the winter and went unsigned as a free agent. Again facing bullpen problems, the Braves agreed to a one-year major league contract with Greene worth a pro-rated $1.5 million on May 9 and sent him to Gwinnett to ramp up.
The hope was that Greene would give the Braves another late inning, high leverage option for a bullpen that had struggled in the early part of the season. Even though his 2020 xFIP was not good, it was accrued in a small sample and Greene had done better peripherals-wise in 2019. Credit them for trying, but a lot of the concerns about Greene came to light as he returned to action.
2021 Season results
Greene made four appearances at Gwinnett, allowing four hits and one run over 4 1/3 innings. He was recalled to Atlanta on June 6 and made his debut two days later, when he retired just one batter while allowing three hits and two runs to the Phillies. It didn’t get much better from there either. Greene ended up making 19 appearances for the Braves, allowing 22 hits and 16 earned runs in 17 total innings. He was designated for assignment on August 10 and was released four days later. Greene’s season wasn’t over as he signed on with the Dodgers, for whom he made nine relief appearances while allowing three hits and three runs in 6 2/3 innings. Los Angeles released him on September 26. Greene totaled a horrid -0.4 fWAR and -0.5 RA9-WAR on the season in just 23 2⁄3 innings. Probably the best thing you could say is that at least his xERA wasn’t bad (4.36), but it’s not like it was good, either.
What went right? / What went wrong?
Whether it was the lack of a traditional Spring Training or something else entirely, not much went right for Greene in 2021. His strikeout rate went back up but so did his walks while his home run rate more than doubled from 2020. His slider lost some of the two-plane action it had in 2020 and that didn’t return in 2021, but that wasn’t the problem — the issue was an absurd .426 xwOBA and 94 mph exit velocity allowed on his sinker, which was compounded by him being unable to get it over the plate much. Maybe a different pitch mix could have saved his 2021, but he didn’t fare any better as he focused on his slider with the Dodgers, so who knows. Greene’s command has been a mess in general going back to 2020, so maybe it’s not that surprising that he pitched so much worse even as his pitches and velocity stayed fairly similar.
Road to the Title
Greene cost the Braves a whopping -0.50 WPA in his short stint with them in 2021, but it wasn’t all bad: he did actually post positive WPA in seven games — though never enough to earn a “shutdown” to go with his three meltdowns. On the season, Greene amassed positive cWPA in in 12 games, including seven with the Braves. (However, his top three cWPA games all came with the Dodgers.) However, he’s yet another guy whose highest cWPA game with the Braves came in a loss.
On June 29, the Braves played that silly game against the Mets where Ozzie Albies hit a three-run homer off Tylor Megill when seeing him for a third time… but the Braves left Charlie Morton in to give up a three-run shot to James McCann in the seventh in pretty much the same circumstances. A.J. Minter then came on and bled another run, which meant that Greene was called on to work the eighth in a one-run game. Greene actually had one of his best outings of the season, going 1-2-3 with a Pete Alonso groundout, a Dom Smith first-pitch foul popout, and then a strikeout of Kevin Pillar (on a pitch that ended up nowhere near where it was supposed to go):
However, the Braves managed just a single over their next two innings and lost the game. (Dansby Swanson barreled a flyout to deep left-center that would’ve been a game-tying homer had he pulled it more, but instead was a 393-foot fly out short of the wall.)
Outlook for 2022
Greene will turn 33 in November and will be looking for another opportunity this winter. Perhaps a traditional build up and spring will help him find some effectiveness but he is going to need to make some changes or find some kind of solution for his command woes.