Braves: The advanced statistics show why Shane Greene remains unsigned

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Many factors are in play when signing a player — age, contract demands, health, statistics, location, team needs, and more. It is not as straightforward as a team wanting a player and a player preferring a team. There is no way to look at Shane Greene’s situation and predict exactly why he remains unsigned. However, here’s why I believe he’s still a free-agent less than a week before Opening Day.

Greene has had an excellent ERA over the past few years. In 2020, he posted a 2.60 mark with a WHIP of 1.120 — good for 1.0 WAR. Since 2019, he has a 2.39 ERA, a WHIP of 1.041, and 3.1 WAR in 90.1 innings pitched. These numbers are All-Star caliber. In fact, his ERA+ in that span is 199, which roughly equals 99% better than league-average at preventing runs. Greene most likely wants to be paid for his performance over the last two seasons, but it seems teams are a bit wary of his success being sustainable.

Over the past couple of years, Greene has outperformed his career numbers by a significant amount. He has been in the league since 2014, yet 3.1 of his 3.5 WAR has come since 2019. Sure, pitchers get better over time. Change of staff and location have proven to help players improve as well. Greene could have simply figured something out as he progressed in his career. However, if we look at the underlying numbers, it seems more like a case of him benefitting from some good fortune.

If we look at more advanced numbers like Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) and Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average (SIERA), it is eye-opening. Explaining xFIP and SIERA is an entire article in itself (albeit an excellent read if you get the chance). Simply put, these metrics look at a pitcher’s actual performance by eliminating other factors that are out of his control. For example, a pitcher does not dictate how well or how poorly a defense plays behind him.

If we look at Greene’s xFIP in 2020, it was the worst of his career at 4.75. In fact, his career xFIP is 4.12, which is very close to his career ERA of 4.38. If we glance at his SIERA, which is slightly more advance than xFIP, his 4.51 mark was the second-worst of his career. Both of these metrics suggest that Greene was fortunate in a small sample size. Over time, there is a high probability that he would have regressed at a rapid pace.

In today’s game, these numbers are looked at by the decision-makers when signing players. This seems to be a classic case of a player over-valuing himself. The advanced stats aren’t lying — Greene is an average relief pitcher, and he’s likely looking to be paid like an All-Star. If his price demands don’t come down, he may not even play in 2021.

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