BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
The Rockies envisioned Jhoulys Chacin as an ace when they talked about what he can do in spring training.
They felt he was ready to take the next step after pitching well last September. They liked his potential so much that they entrusted him to start Opening Day this season.
After Chacin struggled in May, he made it easy for everyone to scoff at the Rockies for hyping him up.
Chacin has come a long way since. He threw his 12th quality start in a row in the Rockies’ 14-2 victory over the Padres last night at Coors Field. He is 11-6 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He has 90 strikeouts for the season, and he has given up only five home runs. He has thrown 150 innings so far this season.
With the way Chacin is going, he could finish the season with 17 wins. He also could pitch past 200 innings for the first time in his career. That is what an elite pitcher does, and he is finally living up to what the Rockies envisioned for him entering the season.
As an observer, it’s been fun seeing him transform into an elite pitcher after a rough stretch.
He has figured it out since he gave up two runs to the Nationals in the second inning of a June 11 start. Something clicked in the third inning of that start. He found his location in hitting the strike zone, and his command was much better. He never got into jams since that game. He managed to throw three shutout innings after he gave up two runs in that start. Since then, he has sustained it.
Chacin has learned to trust his stuff by using his sinker effectively to get hitters out. He has not gotten himself in a jam by using his sinker to get double plays. He has induced 22 double plays this season, which is second best in the National League.
Chacin has worked much faster rather than working at a slow pace. He is not nibbling at the plate as he did in May.
He has improved so much that he threw for seven innings in five consecutive starts. He could have had several complete games this year if the Rockies did not have this stupid rule about the starters not throwing past 100 pitches. If there was not a rain delay last night, Chacin could have had a complete game with the way he was pitching.
The Rockies have not had a starter throw a complete game for 387 consecutive games. If there is a starter that can snap the streak this season, it’s Chacin. Maybe that happens this year. It would be something if that materializes.
Talking to MLB.com freelancer Rafael Rojas Cremonesi last night, he talked about Chacin being confident when he is on the mound. He mentioned the 25-year-old righty is not afraid of facing anyone and he has learned to trust his stuff.
Confidence is essential for a starting pitcher to have success. He has to believe he can win every fifth day. He has to expect to get out of jams. He has to know how to master the strike zone. He has to not overthink.
Sabermetricans poo-poo that thought process, but that should not be disregarded whatsoever. There are many pitchers that have always had the talent, but they never had confidence when they are on the mound. Chacin was one of those guys.
Chacin had poor body language when he was struggling. It was evident in his start against the Giants on May 16. He managed to blow a 6-0 lead, and he ended up taking the loss in the Rockies’ 8-6 loss to the Giants. He expected to fail even when he had that lead. He could not get guys out, and he was all over the place. He just had no answers, and it was clear watching him out there. It was like watching Drew Pomeranz pitch.
Chacin is a different pitcher now. We can laugh about his struggles in May. It’s stunning he had a rough month with the way he is throwing. If nothing else, he has learned from his struggles.
When Chacin is on the mound, the Rockies feel good about their chances to win. He gives them a good reason to feel that way when he is on a nice run.
The Rockies always believed in him, and he has made them look good with what he is doing right now.
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