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July 22, 2011

Fantasy Beat

The Two Sides of Jhoulys Chacin

by Jason Collette

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Last month, I talked about pitchers that were in the “Holy Trinity” of what I considered to be the best mix of skills when targeting pitchers: a strikeout rate of at least 7.0, a groundball rate of at least 50 percent, and a strikeout to walk ratio of at least 2.2. There were just 15 pitchers on that list, but that group has been very successful this season outside of Josh Johnson, who went down with an injury right around the time that article ran, so I take full blame for that bad karma.

One guy that was on that list was Jhoulys Chacin, who, along with Ubaldo Jimenez and the humidor, has helped changed the way fantasy players think about pitchers in Colorado. In his minor league career, Chacin went 40-19 with a 2.40 ERA, striking out 435 batters and allowing 28 home runs in 495.2 innings while pitching in unfriendly parks in Asheville, Modesto, and Colorado Springs. He has now thrown just over 271 innings at the major league level and, despite a losing record of 17-19, has a career 3.38 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, and 1.24 WHIP.

BP2011 had this final thought about Chacin:

Chacin still has to work on his control, but as a 23-year-old with five pitches who gets a Coors-friendly combination of strikeouts and ground balls, he should be an asset in the rotation for years to come.

Early on this season, that is exactly what Chacin was doing. In April, he had a 2.9 strikeout to walk rate, and in May that ratio dipped a bit but was still an effective 2.2. He ended May with a 5-4 record and a 3.33 ERA along with a stellar 1.12 WHIP. Since June 1st, though, it has been a bit of a different story for the hard throwing groundballer.

SPLIT

ERA

H/9

HR/9

BB/9

K/9

WHIP

K/BB

Pre-June

3.33

6.9

1.1

3.2

7.8

1.12

2.4

Since

3.95

6.6

1.5

5.3

7.7

1.32

1.5


Over that period, his walk rate and his home rate have taken dangerous turns in the wrong direction. The walk rate has taken his WHIP from a stellar level to a below average level while the home run rate has been a big factor in the .62 rise in his ERA. It would be worse if he was not leaving 81 percent of his runners stranded over the last two months, and his 6.18 FIP since June 1st shows how bad the damage could have been over this period.

A further look into his monthly splits shows that he is getting away from what makes him successful pitching in Denver: getting ground balls. His groundball rates in April, May, and June were 59, 60, and 60 percent, but in the small sample size that is July so far (23 innings), his groundball rate is just 47 percent. Over his last five starts, Chacin has now given up seven home runs, and that is in just 27 innings of work.  The question remains: why the change in results? Is it a matter of a change in process or just noise within the results that will correct itself over time?

The chart below shows Chacin’s pitch types and velocity of each over the good and ugly parts of his season (results provided by texasleaguers.com).

PRE-JUNE 1ST

SINCE

PITCH

% USED

VELO

PITCH

% USED

VELO

4-seam FB

37%

90.9 mph

4-seam FB

31%

91.7 mph

2-seam FB

21%

89.5 mph

2-seam FB

31%

90.4 mph

Slider

20%

81.9 mph

Slider

21%

83.4 mph

Curveball

13%

78.2 mph

Curveball

9%

79.4 mph

Changeup

9%

83.0 mph

Changeup

7%

83.4 mph


He is throwing a few more fastballs, but that is to be expected with a higher walk rate since it likely means he is behind in the count more often than he was earlier in the season. He is throwing a bit harder since his struggles, so this does not appear to be injury related either.  In the end, this is a results-driven issue, and these are the results of his at-bats in the same split.

RESULT

PRE-JUNE 1ST

SINCE

Groundout

31%

26%

Strikeout

21%

20%

Flyout

10%

11%

Walk

8%

14%

Pop out

3%

4%

Home Run

3%

4%

Lineout

2%

1%

GIDP

2%

1%


Maybe it would be wise for Chacin to dial it down just a bit and sacrifice some velocity to control his pitches a bit more.  The increased walk rate combined with the increased home run rate is to blame for his ERA spike in recent weeks, and it will only get worse if he doesn’t improve. On June 21st, his ERA was 2.71; fast-forward a month, and he now sits at 3.60. The overall results are still impressive, and keeper league players should not be too concerned, but it would be wise to kick the tires on a trade offer with Chacin’s current owner, who may be frustrated with the short term results of late.  The issues that plague Chacin of late are largely correctible and unlikely to be injury-related.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Chacin,  Jhoulys Chacin

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