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The Boston Red Sox are in the thick of the Wild Card hunt and desperately need to trade for a reliever if they’re to repeat as World Series champions. One reliever linked to the Red Sox is Detroit Tigers right-handed reliever Shane Greene. Greene currently boasts an impressive 0.87 ERA with 22 saves and, at first glance, looks like a clear fix to Boston’s issues. However, the underlying numbers suggest that giving up even a mid-level prospect for Shane Greene would be a massive mistake.
Needless to say, having a 0.87 ERA in 31.0 innings of work is a very good thing. However, advanced analytics have ways to measure the sustainability of such performances, and things aren’t looking good for Greene. According to Fangraphs, Greene has a 3.34 FIP and a 3.97 xFIP. FIP is basically ERA with batted ball luck taken out of the equation, while xFIP is FIP normalized for a league-average home run rate.
All of this is to say that Greene has gotten ridiculously lucky thus far in the season. Luck has a way of running out, and he’ll probably regress to the mean as the season goes on. While there is a minor chance he can keep this up, you’d be relying on nothing more than pure, dumb luck. It’s not worth giving up any notable prospect for what amounts to a highly-weighed coin flip.
Additionally, Greene has an unsustainably-low .182 BABIP. BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, is largely determined by luck rather than skill. Basically, hitters have just so happened to hit pitches exactly where Detroit’s fielders are. This is completely unsustainable and will regress to the mean as the season continues. He doesn’t induce strikeout or limit walks at remarkable rates and is mediocre by just about every measure.
Some pitchers have the ability to consistently outpitch their peripherals on an annual basis, but Shane Greene isn’t one of them. Throughout the course of his career, the right-handed reliever has a 4.56 ERA, 4.08 FIP, and a 4.08 xFIP to go along with a .305 BABIP and a 1.05 HR/9.
Greene’s career ERA is actually worse than his FIP, which suggests that he’s certainly not capable of keeping his ERA below his FIP moving forward. Additionally, his .305 BABIP suggests that he isn’t some master of inducing pop-ups and weak ground balls, so that will get worse as his 2019 season progresses.
So far this year, Greene is allowing 0.87 home runs per nine innings, well below his career 1.05 average. This is also likely to regress to the mean as the season progresses, especially if he’s in Fenway Park. Fenway Park, as well as the majority of the AL East ballparks, are hitter-friendly stadiums and are more subject to homers than Comerica Park.
Shane Greene isn’t worth anything more than a mid-level Single-A prospect. If they want to trade away somebody like Nick Northcut for Greene, be my guest. However, that probably won’t be enough to get the job done, and the Red Sox shouldn’t deplete their already-weak farm system of their top assets in exchange for a fluky pitcher who’s destined to regress to his career averages as the season goes on.