Last night Hunter Greene took the mound in Dayton, making his 4th start of the year. It was his 7th career start since being selected 2nd overall by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft.

The Reds have been very careful with how much they pitch Hunter Greene. Last night he threw the most pitches he’d thrown as a professional in a game with 60. He’s thrown just 12.1 total innings in his seven starts, and if you look at his ERA, it’s not a pretty number. For his career it’s sitting at 13.86. That’s more earned runs than innings pitched.

We are dealing with an obvious small sample size here. He’s essentially thrown the equivalent of two starts for a Major Leaguer. The results in terms of allowing hits, and runs, isn’t good. We’ve mentioned the ERA. But he’s also allowed 26 hits in 12.1 innings pitched. That’s more than two hits allowed per inning.

How is that possible? I think it’s a fair question to ask, and the answer is a bit more complicated. Hunter Greene has outstanding stuff. His fastball, in three of his four starts this season has worked 97-100 MPH and touched higher. At times it’s got good movement, too. His slider is an above-average offering right now. And after his first outing, he’s started showing the change up more, particularly to left handed hitters. So, what’s the deal?

Well, let’s dive into the numbers a little bit. In his career, Hunter Greene has now faced 70 batters. He’s struck out 23 of them, hit one of them, and he’s walked seven of then. That leaves you with 39 times in which the batter made contact with the baseball against Greene. One of those times the batter homered. Of the remaining 38 times that a batter hit the ball and a fielder had a chance to make a play and turn it into an out, they did so just 13 times.

There’s a stat for that called batting average on balls in play, or BABIP. The average BABIP is generally around the .300 mark. In the minor leagues you can get certain leagues, or players where it will vary from that mark a little bit, but generally speaking we tend to look at the .300 mark as where players should fall around. The BABIP for Hunter Greene in his career current resides at .658. That’s literally more than twice what you would reasonably expect to be happening.

Now, the idea out there is that once you make contact, generally speaking, you can’t control whether it’s a hit or not, unless you are hitting it over the fence because at that point no one can field it. If I were out there pitching, the BABIP threshold would rise some, but not as much as you would think. In the Major Leagues from 1970 through August of 2011, when a position player took the mound to pitch, a total of just over 200 innings, their combined BABIP was .296. Exactly in line with what you’d see out of an average Major League pitcher.

When you are looking at small sample sizes, crazy things happen in the stats. Hunter Greene has struck out every third batter he’s faced in his professional career. But with a .658 BABIP against him, it’s going to really skew the numbers overall.

Let’s take a look at his start last night as an example of how lucky hitters were in terms of the ball just finding the right spot to land. The first batter of the game singled up the middle and was a legit line drive single to center field. The next batter looped a single into right field. His bat snapped in half, but it goes as a single. The next three batters either struck out (two) or walked (one). Justin Lopez gets an RBI single after that on a ball that literally hit 3 inches in front of the plate and bounced 20 feet in the air before it could be fielded 10 feet in front of the second base bag, but everyone was safe by that point. The final batter of the first inning struck out.

So, in the first inning, he absolutely destroyed a guys bat, and a guy hit another ball a grand total of 75 feet, but both went down as hits. The first batter of the second inning singled to center. It wasn’t hard hit, but it got there cleanly. The next batter singled on a ground ball to shortstop. The next batter hit a blooper that landed two feet beyond the infield dirt, but it made it’s way through.

To this point in his career, there’s been a whole lot of that going on. There’s next to no chance that it keeps happening in the long run. But to this point in his career it has happened, and the line doesn’t look good. It’s also why we need to have the context and understand what it is that’s happening. Hunter Greene gave up six hits last night. One of them was actually hit hard. Two of them didn’t leave the infield. Another one left the infield by two feet. And a fifth one was on a completely destroyed broken bat.

When the BABIP Gods correct things, and it’s eventually going to happen, Hunter Greene’s stat line is going to start looking a whole lot better. His ERA may take a while to recover, but what’s happened this season in terms of his hits allowed has been incredibly fluky. Last night was a continuation of that flukiness.

19 Responses

  1. Jim H.

    Not too concerned with numbers with Hunter this year. Would love to see dominant traditional stats, but as long as the stuff is there & developing & peripherals trend in the right direction, I’ll be a happy camper. He has a lot of developing to do, growing, building of innings/arm strength, etc.

  2. Stock

    I agree.

    In fact based upon your comments, any scout at the game walks away impressed, in spite of the line.

  3. Tom B.

    If he’s still getting these results in AA ball, then there is a reason to worry. If’s he’s as smart as everyone kept saying, he’ll learn and grow.

  4. pw

    Doug, unless I missed it, you didn’t specifically comment on the fielding behind Greene. Is it a significant factor?

  5. Cinvenfan

    Health, building up his innings and developing the changeup and perhaps a sinker it’s the mission for 2018.

  6. MK

    From my seat it looks like the fastball is straight as an arrow, and when it has been hit it has been hit hard. His control n the strike zone needs work. I am sure he has gotten by just blowing people away. Not going to happen against the pros. He will get it

  7. Jim

    Trade him to St Louis or the Yankees, so he can fully develope.

  8. Daytonian

    Too early–and way too young–to place any weight on the numbers.

  9. Paul Ryan

    I think Dayton is too high for him. Send him to Billings and teach him how to pitch. With that kind of heat, he’s been a thrower. It’s easy as a high schooler to be dominant throwing 100 mph. He’s just not ready. This is however a humbling experience. I wouldn’t be against him being a long reliever with regular bullpen work. Let him work on his control and location. Teach a few new pitches so that he doesn’t follow the long line of pitchers who the reds drafter that only had two pitches being a fastball and mediocre change up. He would be so devastating if he had 4 good pitches including a major league slider and a good looping curve. You need to keep hitters off balance.

  10. The Duke

    Straight fastball or not, a .658 BABIP is crazy. I could throw it up there underhanded and not get that unlucky. Getting consistent movement on that fastball and working on his location/control should be priority 1 this year.

    • Michael Smith

      It looks like the reds have a plan for him and are going to let him work thru his early struggles. How you handle adversity is the difference between the best and the guys who just couldn’t quite make it.

    • Datdudejs

      With the sample size a .658 babip is completely misleading. It will look completely different in another start, good or bad. I’m not even sure what Doug is trying to prove in this other then he is cherry picking stats and biased

      • Doug Gray

        I’m trying to say that he’s got a .658 BABIP and that, well, it distorts how he’s actually been pitching. And I’m not cherry picking any stats. I literally cited darn near every stat he’s got in the article. And I even broke down all of the hits from his last start and what they were and how they happened.

        And there’s nothing misleading about his BABIP. It is what it is. He’s been insanely unlucky, small sample size or not.

  11. Datdudejs

    I’m not sure how you can discount one stat for small sample size and then turn around and use babip as a defense but ok

  12. citizen54

    Hunter Greene

    ERA 14.63
    FIP 3.80
    xFIP 2.78

    In poker parlance, he’s been getting bad beats up the wazoo.

    • GM Nep O'Tism

      My problem with FIP and xFIP are that they both ignore a whole lot of factors and basically boil down to strikeouts = better. It doesn’t give any benefit to pitchers who simply induce a lot of weak contact. So a guy who throws 10 meatballs straight down the center that get blasted for doubles, and then gets all three of the outs in an inning via strikeout would be a FIP god. Cueto’s career FIP is 3.75, and Homer Bailey’s career FIP is 4.13… any stat that tries to tell me their careers have even been close has something wrong with them.

      xFIP has all the problems of FIP, but adding on the belief that HR/FB % isn’t a thing a pitcher can control, which is why Kershaw’s career xFIP is .55 than his career ERA while Cody Reed’s career xFIP is 2.12 lower than his career ERA, ignoring the fact that 38% of the balls hit against Cody Reed are hard contact. If you watch the two pitch, you can clearly tell it’s not some HR/FB% luck going on.

      I like a lot of the advanced metrics, but I have just never been able to get behind FIP and xFIP. It vastly oversimplifies it down to a game of the 3 true outcomes, while xFIP takes that down to 2 outcomes. It’s also why I refuse to go by fWAR for pitchers.

      (BTW, according to fWAR, Bailey over the last 4 years with his 6.01 ERA over 164.2 IP is a 0.9 WAR player. According to bWAR, he’s been a -1.3 WAR player. Now which of those seems more accurate? Lol)

      • Doug Gray

        Strikeouts ARE better. But yeah, I’ve got my own issues with FIP and xFIP, and thus WAR for pitchers.

        HR/FB rate is a thing I’m torn on. I think it’s silly to try to normalize it to league average. But I also think it’s something we shouldn’t just ignore. You bring up two examples. Kershaw pitches in an enormous ballpark in a division full of them. Reed pitches in a small ballpark in a division with a few HR friendly ballparks. We should be attempting to adjust numbers for those scenarios. I’m not quite sure there’s a perfect way to do it, but I also don’t think we should just pretend like it’s not a real difference.