If you are looking for big reasons why the Braves’ 2020 season was so successful despite the fact that their rotation was among the worst in the league in the regular season, the bullpen is absolutely on the list. While the rotation was not good, the bullpen was one of the better units in the entire league and carried the team for stretches during the 2020 season.
While there were a lot of contributors to the Braves’ success in the relief corps, Shane Greene was most assuredly one of them. Lets take a look at the impending free agent to see what went right and wrong for him in 2020.
What went right? Quite a bit, honestly. Greene held opposing batters to a .224 average against him on his way to a 2.60 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 2020 season. He stranded nearly 80% of batters on base against him and the average exit velocity against him, 87.9 mph, was the lowest it has been since 2017. He also proved to be durable yet against as he made 28 appearances in the regular season followed by six excellent appearances in the postseason. In a 60 game season, one cannot be upset about that level of production. He also posted his lowest hard hit percentage since 2016 at 27.3% while continuing to keep the walks low. In short, while he doesn’t post gaudy strikeout numbers, he has been everything the Braves wanted when they traded for him to upgrade their bullpen.
What went wrong? Aside from the fact that he seemingly lost the confidence of the coaching staff when it comes to trusting him in high leverage situations in 2020, there were some concerning things about Greene’s peripherals in 2020. He saw a significant drop in his strikeout rate down from over nine K/9 in the previous four seasons to 6.83 K/9 in 2020. He has also been a guy that has been seemingly lucky to perform as well as he has. While he has posted ERAs below 3 in three of the past four seasons, his FIPs in each of those seasons each approached 4 which suggests a certain amount of luck has been on his side and one does wonder if the Regression Monster will come for him soon.
Despite those FIP concerns, there is also some evidence to suggest that Greene had some bad luck come his way in the postseason as the BABIP against him in the playoffs came in at .353. Sure, this is a small sample we are dealing with, but I am mentioning in nonetheless as Greene was probably even better than his numbers showed in the playoffs which is pretty high praise.
Outlook for 2021: It has been fun having a bullpen that is incredibly deep in talent. Shane could be the closer for a lot of teams in the league and he seemed, at times, to have at least three or four guys ahead of him when it came to being used in high leverage situations. Greene made $6.5 million in 2020 in his final year of arbitration and if the price for his services was in that ballpark, re-signing him seems like it would be a no brainer. However, Greene hits free agency this offseason and he joins Liam Hendricks and Blake Treinen as the three most desirable relievers on the market. He is not going to get a qualifying offer which will help his market and even if the Braves lose Greene and Mark Melancon, the bullpen still appears to be in relatively decent shape and that money may be better served elsewhere. It isn’t a given that Greene will leave the Braves, but the odds are that Shane will be pitching in a different uniform in 2021.