Here’s the bad news: The Colorado Rockies are still notably deficient in the starting rotation.
The good news? The team has locked up its best pitcher for the next two seasons.
The Rockies avoided arbitration with right-hander Jhoulys Chacin on Saturday, with the two sides agreeing to a two-year, $6.5 million deal that will eat up Chacin’s first pair of arbitration-eligible seasons.
In a team whose rotation essentially consists of entirely back-end pitchers, the 25-year old Chacin may well end up being the team’s most consistent starting pitcher in 2013; and that’s saying something, considering that he pitched just 69 innings in 2012 due to shoulder problems.
It comes down to track record and upside. Outside of Drew Pomeranz, who may not make the rotation in 2012, you could argue that no one currently on Rockies rotation has the same kind of upside that Chacin does. Furthermore, he’s one of only two starting pitcher on staff (the other being Jeff Francis) with a full season in his belt over the last two years.
Though 2012 was mostly a lost season for Chacin, he’s only one year removed from a 2.8 fWAR 2011 campaign that saw him put up a 3.64 ERA and 1.31 WHIP through 194 innings. His propensity to walk batters (4.04 BB/9) definitely hurt him in the WHIP department, but that he held his opponents to a .228 batting average meant that he was able to limit the damage more often than not.
It was a season to build on, something that Chacin could not do last season.
To say that he was a mess right out of the gate would almost be an understatement: Chacin made it through only five starts before succumbing to an ailing shoulder, having posted a disastrous 7.30/1.86 ERA/WHIP split in the process. He eventually made it back in August, finishing off his season by making nine more starts to a much more palatable 2.84 ERA.
So, it’s all good going into 2013, right? Not quite. Though the ERA looks like a positive for Chacin, it’s actually a fairly inaccurate picture of how well he pitched towards the end of the season. The righty’s strikeout rate plummeted to 4.67 during that 44 inning stretch, and that his opponents still hit him to a tune of a .275 BAA suggests that Chacin didn’t quite have his stuff back in order.
He was making outs, yes, but not necessarily impressively.
A 1.35 K/BB isn’t going to play well for 2013, and Chacin will have to regain his ability to generate ground balls at a higher rate to find sustained success. His velocity will be something to watch for in Spring Training; that said, he’s done it before, and a healthy shoulder going into next season should see him being able to make good on 2011.