The Coors Effect

August 24, 2009 10:30 AM

Is it too early to worry about Jhoulys Chacin?

Jhoulys Chacin's one start in the major leagues was not a memorable one.  He lasted just 2.2 innings and walked six batters.  Perhaps part of the reason was that he was working (sort of) on short rest: he had pitched two innings (throwing 21 pitches) just three days prior to that start, and it's possible that affected him.

He had pitched relatively well in his first four appearances, though, aside from issuing a walk in each of his first three one-inning appearances.  The start was a complete disaster, and it was no surprise that the Rockies optioned him down to Colorado Springs afterward.  Likewise, it's no surprise that the Rockies have decided to go with Josh Fogg rather than Chacin to replace Aaron Cook in the rotation.

Since being optioned back down (I can't think of a worse place in the minors for a young pitcher to regain his confidence than Colorado Springs), Chacin has made two starts and walked 8 batters in 7.1 innings.  In his start yesterday, Chacin lasted just two innings and issued five walks.  (Of course, in his first start in AAA, Chacin was part of a no-hitter.  So there's that.)

So what's the concern?  After all, we're talking about just three starts and a handful of relief appearances; it's not as if Chacin has been doing this all season.  The reason to be concerned is that Chacin's command has never been an issue.  Entering this season, Chacin had walked just 2.3 batters per 9 innings in two professional seasons.  At Tulsa this season, he was walking 3.0 per 9: a slight increase, but no reason to be concerned considering he's 21 years old.  So the sudden spike in walks since being promoted to the majors and, later, after being sent back down to AAA has to be cause for some concern.  This isn't a Ubaldo Jimenez or a Franklin Morales, where they had always had spotty command throughout the minors and so the fact that they walked a few batters when they reached AAA and the majors wasn't terribly surprising.  And although we're only really talking about two starts, the command hasn't really been there: three walks in five innings of relief in the majors; three walks in 5.1 innings in his first AAA start.

My gut sense is that Chacin is struggling a bit with the transition, but that he'll ultimately be fine in the long run.  Morales, after all, had horrific struggles with his command in 2008 but has bounced back this year to be a very effective pitcher when healthy.  Still, pay attention to see if this corrects itself over the next few weeks.  If Chacin comes into spring training struggling with his command, it's officially time to worry.  For now, though, we'll just assume this is all about adjusting to better competition and not worry too much about it.

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