On Sunday afternoon in Atlanta the Cincinnati Reds gave the ball to Hunter Greene for his Major League debut with the hopes that the 22-year-old could help them to a win on the day and a series split with the defending World Series champions. That’s exactly what happened as Greene and the Reds picked up a 6-3 win and boarded a plane back to Cincinnati to get ready for the home opener on Tuesday against Cleveland.

The offense got the job done for the Reds and gave Hunter Greene plenty of breathing room. The right-handed starter gave up two home runs in 5.0 innings and three runs total while walking just two batters and picking up seven strikeouts. At times he looked very impressive on the mound – nothing like you would expect from a guy who has less than 200 professional innings under his belt since being drafted out of high school back in 2017.

Ever since he was drafted the one thing you’ve heard about the most is the fastball velocity. The guy touched 105 MPH last year – something no other starting pitcher that we know of has been able to do. His fastball regularly sat at 100+ MPH last season in the minor leagues. Even in a day and age when everyone throws harder than ever, Greene’s velocity is in a different league.

Let’s be clear that on Sunday afternoon in Atlanta that Hunter Greene was absolutely bringing the heat. His fastball averaged 99.7 MPH. No fastball he threw was under 98 MPH. The fastest pitch he threw on the day was 102 MPH.

But the fastball velocity was only one of many impressive things on the day. Today was the first time the public actually got their hands on Statcast data on Hunter Greene over the span of an entire start. What we learned was rather interesting (thanks to Tru Media for the stats that follow), and probably a tough blow to the “his fastball is straight as an arrow” crowd who probably have never actually watched him pitch in their lives. The horizontal break on his fastball would have ranked in the 85th percentile of MLB last year. The vertical movement would have been ranked in the 66th percentile of MLB last year. His spin rate of 2399 would have been in the 80th percentile of MLB last year. And of course, the velocity, would have been in the 100th percentile.

While the fastball was impressive, the slider and change up both looked good, too. Greene got five swinging strikes on his slider in the game – one less than he got with his fastball. He added another swinging strike on the change up, giving him 13 on the day. For a pitch that he didn’t use much in the minor leagues, the work this offseason with the pitch seemed to pay off as he threw 13 of them and seemed to be comfortable with it – though he only threw it to left-handed hitters in this game.

For the most part, Greene was able to locate his fastball and when he did, there wasn’t much that the Atlanta hitters could do with it. The slider found the strikezone often, and when it didn’t there were still guys chasing it – we’re looking at you, Adam Duvall. Not that Greene has a history of struggling to throw strikes in his minor league history, but in a big league debut against a good offense? Yeah, that was impressive.

Reds fans got a good taste of big league debuts in the series against Atlanta. Greene picked up his first big league victory on Sunday. Earlier in the series Daniel Duarte and Alexis Diaz looked outstanding in their first games on the big league mound out of the bullpen. And come Wednesday, the Cincinnati crowd is going to get another debut to watch when 2019 1st round pick (and 1st overall pitcher selected) Nick Lodolo takes the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals.

43 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    Great breakdown, Doug. Even a relatively light stats guy like me can see from what you presented that Greene has every chance to be something very special. If we have to ride a rollercoaster this season with our Reds, having him along will make it more exciting, at least for me.

    And I loved some of the comparison in the game to JR Richard. I still have immense respect for what that man did in his abbreviated career.

    Back home to face the Guardians for two!

  2. SultanofSwaff

    Greene’s changeup is the separator—it keeps lefties off his fastball, which as we saw, any ML hitter can square up if they know it’s coming. The home runs will happen when he’s backed into a fastball count, but so long as they’re solo shots you have to accept it as part of what makes him who he is.

    Did anyone think the Braves were better than the Reds this weekend? Look around the division and tell me there’s a rotation that will be as deep as the Reds by May. Castillo, Mahle, Greene, Lodolo, Guti/Reiver/Minor. If we can hit we’ll be playing meaningful baseball in September.

    • Jim Walker

      If Castillo doesn’t find a higher level of consistency than he has demonstrated in recent years, he could be the #4 starter by mid season.

      • Optimist

        Jim – both doubtful and hopeful. If good 4th and 5th starters have ERAs around 4.50, the Castillo is ahead of that, but if the Reds have 6 or 7 of those they’ll be in very good shape indeed. If they can get 3 or 4 of them at or below 4.00 ERA, they should be looking at a wild card slot. When is the last time pitching like that carried this team? Still, need an ace or #2 guys with ERA/WHIP in the 3.2/1.1 range.

      • Chris

        I’m not understanding the digs at Castillo. Yes, his 1st 7 starts were horrible; after that he was elite for the rest of the season. Castillo will be our best pitcher this season; you can mark that down.

      • Jim Walker

        During the off season, I did some research on Castillo’s 2021 numbers but ran out of gas and interest when the sell offs and lockout hit and never pulled it together into a post or article. The abstract of what I had found is as follows.

        In the games Castillo started and the team eventually lost, regardless of who was assigned the official decision, Castillo’s personal average in game ERA was >6.5. For games he started that the team eventually won the same measure was less than 1.5. The formula I used was the sum of his individual in game ERAs (via Fangraphs) for each team outcome divided by number of starts for each outcome (33 starts; 11 wins; 22 losses).

        The possible mitigating factor I thought of and had not figured out how to weigh was runners left on base when a reliever replaced him. It did not seem correct to deduct runners who scored after he left while not making an adjustment in the other direction for runners who subsequent reliever(s) stranded.

        My cross check numbers against other Reds starters are not embedded in the main spreadsheet I saved but I recall that I done Mahle and I believe Gray or Miley and none were in this sort of wide range.

  3. doofus

    What impressed me with Hunter Greene was his ability to battle through tough situations a couple of times. He did not look rattled.

    • Daytonnati

      I agree. He reminds me of that “other” young guy in town who arrived with a calm confidence 🙂

  4. ClevelandRedsFan

    I don’t know that it’s fair to say he’s just going to be a guy who gives up some homers and it is who he is.

    He’s not Jumbo Diaz…remember that guy? He threw 102 and got rocked.

    As Doug is saying, he’s not just a thrower. He has good, not elite, movement on his fastball and got his fair share of swings and misses on sliders/change ups. Remember when a young Cueto gave up 9 runs against the Phillies and didn’t even get out of the first inning.

    Greene will only get better with location, movement, secondary pitches and keeping hitters guessing. No pitcher dominates in his first game, but Greene was pretty darn close. It takes time to learn how to pitch.

    • Doug Gray

      Jumbo Diaz pitched in 142 games for the Reds and had a 3.65 ERA….

      • Grand Salami

        To be fair he was referring to homers not his performance as a whole.

        It seemed like a lot of the runs scored off him were of the long ball variety.

      • Tom Reeves

        Yep, me too.

        It’s amazing that he’s 22, has that sort of easy velo, and actually pitched. There was a logic to how he sequenced and located pitches.

        Frankly, it was like watching Tiger Woods in ‘97 at the Masters.

    • DaveCT

      May some (of the late) Roy Halliday in there, too.

  5. Michael B. Green

    Above all, I thought Greene’s focus and demeanor was the most impressive. I saw a Spring Training start last year and he was too amped up. This time around, he took a simple approach and I noticed times where he just concentrated on his breath.

    All I hope for is health and his ability to make adjustments. The tools and focus are there. Great debut!

  6. citizen54

    Unfortunately, while Green looked good at times, his overall Statcast data was actually pretty bad.

    Obviously, SSS applies (12 batted balls) but here are the stats:

    Hard hit % 50
    xERA 5.84
    xBA .270
    xSLG .682
    xWBOA .401
    max EV 110.8

    Contrast that with Ian Anderson:

    Hard hit % 0
    xERA 4.10
    xBA .228
    xSLG .374
    xWBOA .304
    max EV 92.7

    • Reaganspad

      And Ian Anderson plays a mean flute

      • LDS

        That he does, though back in the 70s, the leotards and codpiece nearly got him banned from the large but conservative college I was attending. As for his pitching, I saw somewhere that the Reds hard hit % for the series wasn’t particularly good.

      • Tom Reeves

        He also eyes little girls with bad intent.

    • Jimbo44CN

      Too many stats these days. Just like accounting, you can make numbers suggest anything you want or need. Proof is in the pudding. He did well, didnt’ freak out after giving up the homers, got out of the 5th and got his first win. I’ll take that.

    • Luke J

      And which outcome would you prefer? Something tells me you are over-analyzing stats.

    • greenmtred

      Good results, though. Sic transit Statcast. Some of the velocity of batted balls may be due to how hard he throws, and some to location, but work in progress though he may be, it was a promising and effective start.

    • Rod Andrews

      The biggest contrast: W Greene 1-0. L Anderson 0-1

  7. MuddyCleats

    Clearly, Hunter isn’t afraid of the spotlight; he’s been there and done that. Along w/ his FB, that may b his biggest asset right now? However, it’s obvious he still has things 2 work on. He left a lot of pitches in the middle of the plate including pitches he got guys out on. Really excited for him and the Reds; I think he’ll rise to the challenge

  8. MuddyCleats

    Tyler Stephenson also warrants further discussion. Clearly, Cincy doesn’t have the pop they had in place season. It’s easy to see Tyler’s bat/advanced approach needs to b IN the lineup at least 6 days a week. That being said, is he going to be used as a RHH DH?
    SD is doing this w/ their catchers. “On Sunday, Luke Voit slid to first, and Nola served as designated hitter. With such a strong offensive combo at catcher, the presence of a DH could favor San Diego.” They traded Victor Caratini to the Brewers on the eve of the season for next to nothing and landed Alfaro from Miami for modest cash considerations on the final day before the lockout. I like what I’ve seen of Garcia, but it makes you wonder what Reds were thinking – OR NOT about catcher in the off season?

  9. old-school

    I did a 180 and am glad Greene is pitching at the MLB level as opposed to starting at AAA for refinement. His next big challenge will be the adjustment game, stringing together consistency from inning to inning and game to game. Scouting reports and MLB game film against MLB hitters are now out there with more data every 5 days. Plus, you saw the Braves do a much better job the 2nd/3rd time through the order as they adjusted. But, that’s why it makes sense to have him develop further in MLB. There’s no Matt Olson’s or Austin Riley’s or 8 hole hitting catchers who hit opposite field HR’s off 99 mph in Scranton or Rochester.

    • Jim Walker

      Exactly, you reach a person reaches a point where they can no longer practice simulated dives in shallow water. It is time to move to the deep end or move on to something else.

  10. TMS

    I freely admit that I was one of those who thought Greene’s fastball was fairly straight, based on watching him on MiLB.TV last year. I had not had a chance to watch him in spring training, so this was my first opportunity to see him.

    I was pleasantly surprised that his fastball had more movement. The slider had a good bite. It appeared there was a sinker being thrown at times. The change looked decent, but it just needs to be thrown much more often.

    The biggest take-away is that the stuff is there. If Hunter Greene can channel that confidence into his secondary pitches, it’s going to be fun over the next five or six years.

  11. Rednat

    what i like most about Hunter is his personality and background story. he is the type of player that could transcend sports. people will come out to the ballpark just to watch him play even if they are not huge reds/baseball fans.

    That is one reason i wanted the reds to give him a fair shake as an everyday player at shortstop. he may be a player that would have a Ken Griffey Junior Effect on attendance. But asa pitcher he will only play every 5 days

    • Doc

      As a SS he would not have had the WOW factor, playing every day.

    • DaveCT

      And he accepts this role and responsibility.

  12. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Sorry, but I can’t help we are hearing way too much about Greene right now. At best, he’s only going see action in a fifth of the Reds games anyhow. Odds are drastic he’s not going to be that good in every game.

    He did his job. We all know it. Let’s put the admiration to rest. . .at least till his next start. The dude hasn’t even completed a half season yet, and people are seemingly already putting up his place in the HOF.

    From the responses, I’m afraid to see Homer-itis all over again (referring to Homer Bailey, not homers hit).

    • Jim Walker

      Maybe the Reds will talk to Greene to see if he is interested in doing off season work to determine if he can get his hitting up to speed to DH? Somebody is going to be doing that job for the Reds here on out.

    • Luke J

      It’s ok to be excited about an electric prospect. That’s what makes it fun. People who are constantly tempering their expectations like you suggest end up missing out on a lot of the enjoyment of rooting for a team–the excitement. It doesn’t hurt anyone for fans to be excited. No reason whatsoever to “put the admiration to rest.”

  13. Klugo

    Greene is the real deal. It didnt take long in the org for me to be convinced of that. Hope we dont trade him any time soon.

  14. MBS

    Greens stuff is great, I will be interested to see how he able to command his fastball. I think he can hit the zone with it, but as you saw, good hitters will catch up with it. If he can hit the top and edges he will be unhittable.

    I wanted him in AAA to start, but he showed poise against the WSC’s, so I don’t think AAA is necessary anymore. I think he’ll be able to improve on the Reds roster even better than in AAA. Working with DJ on a daily basis is a good thing.

  15. Old-school

    I posted this earlier but I went to Homer Baileys first game at GABP
    He battled hard like Greene did and it was a similar trying 5th inning to finish the outing and Reds won a close game . Cant wait to watch Greene pitch but surely some tough outings ahead as he pitches every 5th day against the gauntlet of MLB hitters

  16. Joey Red

    A very promising start but it’s only one game. Names like Gooden and Halladay are being tossed around. I think
    It’s a little too early for those comparisons but we can all hope. Unfortunately if he is the real deal he won’t be here long. So enjoy it while you can.

    • Tom Reeves

      I think a lot of us were expecting a raw talent. I don’t think most of us expected a 22 with top notch velo commanding 3 pitches and actually pitching. We also didn’t expect someone as calm and poised. That’s why the comparisons are being made. He’s way ahead of where most of us expected.

      If Lodolo is similarly prepared (granted, with a different talent set), maybe the Reds are the right track for pitching talent development.

  17. Jonathan

    Listening to Jim Day’s podcast with Hunter Greene is really awesome. This kid is for real and I love how grounded he is. Lock this kid up through age 30. whatever it takes.