Jhoulys Chacin is a 30 year-old starting pitcher from Venezuela. This is his 10th season in the big leagues. He’s pitched primarily in the NL west in his career, but also spent a season between Atlanta and Los Angeles of the Angel variety. He’s had a very interesting career up until this point. At times he looks like a top of the rotation starter and at times he looks like a swing guy in the bullpen. Jhoulys can boast a strong 4.21 ERA at Coors field in his career, you also must look at his stellar 1.79 ERA and 0.977 WHIP at Petco Park last year. That’s the good, but the bad can’t be ignored. Outside of Petco Park he was atrocious last year claiming an ERA of 6.53 and a nauseating 1.638 WHIP.
Whatever those numbers tell you or me, David Stearns liked enough of what he saw to bring him in to help this rotation giving him a 2-year 15.5-million-dollar contract. To the surprise of others this was the only “major” starting pitcher move the Brewers made this off-season, even though this was seen as the weakest spot on the roster. There was a “Big 4” to most in the starting pitching market. That “Big 4” consisted of Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn. Not signing one of these guys was frowned upon by the baseball pundits, but that doesn’t matter to David Stearns he was comfortable with what he had. However, the season started off rocky for the veteran right-hander. In his old stomping grounds of Petco Park Jhoulys couldn’t even make it out of the 4th. He gave up 4ER 7 hits and walked 2 in only 3 1/3. Next up was divisional foe St. Louis… this start was just as rough, this time he made it into the 6th, however 6 runs came across and 3 were earned. The next start after that happened to be against St. Louis, but this time it was in St. Louis. He only gave up 3 runs, all of which were earned. The main problem with his first few starts were how horrifically inefficient they were. In all 3 starts he couldn’t make it out of the 6th. His inefficiency hit a peak in a game in New York against the Mets when it took him 85 pitches to get through 4 innings. The Mets only managed 1 run against him, but this game really hurt the bullpen. Now you can’t judge a season based on 4 games, but this looked to be all of Brewers fans worst nightmares coming true and this being a flop signing.
Thankfully for Jhoulys the season is longer than 4 games. After the game against the Mets he really turned a corner. Back at Miller Park against the floundering Marlins Jhoulys made it through 6 innings allowing 4 hits and no runs. And he keeps going strong after that with very solid starts in 5 of his last 6. The crown jewel being against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona where he went 7 strong innings only giving up 2 hits and 1 run. This game was not only the game he went the deepest in, but also the game he looked the best. His slider looked nasty, he had good control, and he worked very efficiently throwing only 96 pitches to get through the 7 innings. That’s just under 14 pitches per inning. He’s had an eye-popping ERA of 2.29 in his last 8 starts. And his season totals at an ERA of 3.32 and a WHIP of 1.3.16. This was undoubtably what Stearns had in mind when he brought Jhoulys and only Jhoulys in.
Let’s look at how the “Big 4” has fared to this point in the season. Starting with Yu Darvish who received the largest contract of the 4. He received a 6-year 126-million-dollar contract from the Chicago Cubs. Up to now this looks like a colossal overpay and a bullet dodged by the Brewers. Now there have been times where we’ve seen the filthy Yu Darvish, but he doesn’t look like the kind of guy who’s AAV will be 21 million per year until he’s 37. Yu has accumulated a WAR of -0.4, an ERA of 4.95, and a WHIP of 1.425. This contract was too much for the Brewers to swallow and at the moment looks like a potential blessing.
We next step to see Jake Arrieta who had the largest AAV at 25 million a year for 3 years. Jake was the guy most feared signing the most, as it was known he wanted the most and had a declining fastball at age 32. However, he’s been by far the best of these 4 guys. He’s been a steadying force in a young Phillies rotation, and has helped the surge to the top of the NL East. He’s posted a 2.45 ERA and a WHIP of 1.149, with a healthy WAR of 1.4. Most were to scared to sign him and now the only thing they’re scared of is having to face this ace who looks to be holding strong at 32.
Next, we’ll look at the smallest contract of the 4. Lance Lynn was given a 1-year 12 million-dollar contract from the Minnesota Twins. At first glance most saw this as a steal for Minnesota, but it hasn’t panned out that way yet. He has a gigantic ERA of 6.34 and a WHIP of 1.864 to match. The worst part of this for Minnesota is he hasn’t lived up to the billing as an innings eater. In 9 starts he’s only managed to get through 44 innings. This isn’t what Minnesota had in mind, but like I said you can’t judge a season this early.
Finally, the last guy to sign Alex Cobb. Cobb was given a 3-year 45 million-dollar contract by the Baltimore Orioles. Alex Cobb has been scary, but not the good kind. He’s posted an ERA of 7.32 and a WHIP of 1.932. He’s gotten rocked just about every time out and at this point I think it’s safe to stop blaming it on rust. He’s only managed to strike out 22 in 39 1/3 innings. There’s no doubt he can turn things around over the life of the contract, but things don’t look good at the moment.
The Brewers needed to address their starting rotation in the off-season and they did, just not in a sexy way that most around baseball thought they would. They handled it like they’ve handled most things in the Stearns era… frugally. This has been one of those under the radar signings that’s really helped the team on the field and the team’s wallet. Bringing in a big named starter would have been fun, but they all have either drastically underperformed, or wanted too much for such a small-market team. So looking back on it not only did we get an effective starting pitcher, but we got him for pennies on the dollar compared to the big named guys, who by the way he’s outperforming most of.