You’d be hard pressed to find a team in baseball that hasn’t found players with more unique names than the Braves. They now have a Dansby, an Ender Inciarte, a Rutckyj, something called a Foltynewicz, an Ozhaino Albies, and still retain the services of Joey Terdoslavich.
Now, you can add Jhoulys Chacin to the list. At least the Braves will lead the league in most letters used!
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Chacin was a quick and steady riser through the Rockies’ system. He made his debut in 2009 and a year later, became a fixture for the Rockies when healthy. His 2010 rookie season was tremendous. He walked too many, but he struck out a batter an inning and showed an ability to induce grounders off his low 90’s sinker. That’s kind of a useful thing for a Coors Field pitcher. The following season, his strikeouts fell from 24% to 18%, but his sinker was utilized more and nearly all of his pitches had a downward tilt to them. This resulted in a 10% increase in groundballs to 56.3%.
With back-to-back 2 WAR seasons already in the bag, things looked up for the Venezuelan, but Chacin struggled in 2012 as health (14 starts) and poor play led him to a 5.10 xFIP and a high rate of flyballs. He bounced back in 2013 with his best season to date. His strikeouts again declined for the third consecutive season, but he threw more strikes (48% vs. 44% career rate) and reached 60% in first-pitch strikes for the first time in his career. A better groundball rate and a fluky 6% HR/FB helped Chacin with matching 3.47’s ERA and FIP’s, the latter of which was his best mark of his career. As was his 3.9 fWAR total. To put that into perspective, it ranked as the 20th best pitching WAR in baseball according to Fangraphs and the sixth best WAR total in Rockies history for a pitcher.
Chacin was on the cusp of greatness, but another injury-filled 2014 killed his momentum. After getting pushed out of a job in the spring of 2015, he was cut by the Rockies. He would later hook up with the Indians, but eventually opted out so that he could sign with Arizona. The latter got him back to the majors, where he showed some signs of the pitcher of old (19% K%, 47% GB%). An unsustainable LOB% rate of 81% and 1.35 HR/9 fluctuated his FIP unfairly the other way, but his SIERA was almost on point with the 4.27 from his 2013 season. Granted…he pitched 170 or so fewer innings. He did look pretty good in AAA first with Columbus and then with Reno as well.
On the mound, Chacin threw more sinkers than any other pitch in 2015, a new development. Also new was a cutter that took away a healthy amount of the fourseamers he used to throw. He also sprinkles in a curve and changeup, but relies greatly on his slider. He’s lost velocity compared to his 2013 numbers (about 2 mph), though maybe he can get that back with a healthy offseason program.
Chacin is less than a month away from turning 28 and joins a battle for a rotation spot in a wide open field. This is a smart signing that could provide dividends. It would surprise me none to see Chacin break camp with the team, even in a swingman role. After all, we need more unique names added to the roster. It’s our thing, dammit.