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Coming into this season, the Colorado Rockies had a lot of options at starting pitcher, but not many dependable ones. Their starters rank last in the NL in ERA, just to prove that point. But the organization didn't expect Jhoulys Chacin to be a large contributor to that problem.
Unfortunately, however, he is, and the Rockies didn't believe that he could work out his issues if he remained with the parent club. Chacin began 2012 0-3 with a 7.30 ERA, an 8.03 K/9 and a 5.47 BB/9 in five starts (24 2/3 innings). Troy Renck reported that it seems as if the hurler is going through a dead-arm phase.
News stories on the right-hander's demotion have noted how poorly he finished last season. From June 27 through his final start, Chacin was 3-10 with a 4.58 ERA, a 5.92 K/9 and a 4.48 BB/9. One might have been tempted to guess that at least some of his fall-off was the effect of fatigue, considering that he was on his way to a career high in innings pitched. Perhaps that's when his control began to erode, slowly.
But that's a 16-start stretch. Often, when pitchers hit a wall, after no more than a few weeks, they're back in form - or at least much closer to it. Chacin was up and down, but he wasn't nearly as bad as he's been this year. And according to Brooks Baseball's PITCHf/x Tool, his fastball velocity remained elevated until last season's final month, and even then, it didn't dip to a level as concerning as this year's low.
Clearly, the staff believes that it's a confidence issue. Chacin claims that he's not injured. He does admit that the ball doesn't feel right coming out of his hand, which at minimum implies that there's something wrong mechanically.
Coming into spring training, Dan O'Dowd raised questions about the pitcher's conditioning. The GM asserted that Chacin's added weight would affect throw off his balance and negatively affect his fastball command. The righty insisted that he was in good shape, but he had a rough spring, statistically (5.39 ERA, 13:9 K/BB). A news report cited command of his heater as a major reason on at least occasion.
If Chacin were to correct what ails him within a few minor league starts, Colorado would probably recall him quickly. Whatever the problem is - or, likelier, problems are - however, there doesn't seem to be a quick fix. It may involve a conditioning program as well as a breakdown of his windup, which would take time.
It might be tempting to retain the 24-year-old in deep mixed leagues in hopes that he rediscovers his 2010 and pre-break 2011 form in short order. Chances are, you're wasting a roster spot, however. That's probably even the case in shallow NL leagues.
The Rockies don't have a surefire replacement for Chacin. Tim is fond of Alex White, should the young righty get a shot. Tyler Chatwood has endeared himself in the clubhouse and is an interesting long-term possibility as well. Prospect Christian Friedrich could probably stand quite a bit more time at Triple-A Colorado Springs before he debuts.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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