The Milwaukee Brewers have signed right-hander Jhoulys Chacin to strengthen their rotation. Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs added Tyler Chatwood to boost their starting staff. Which move will serve the two NL Central rivals better?
Both the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers entered the off season knowing they had to strengthen their starting rotation. The Cubs are likely going to lose Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. The Brewers will start the 2018 season without Jimmy Nelson, and already lacked a solid fifth starter.
How did 2017 go for Chatwood and Chacin?
Chacin was a sub-2.00 ERA pitcher in San Diego, but posted and ERA over 6.00 away from Petco. Chatwood was battered in Coors, but posted a 3.49 ERA in 77 1/3 innings on the road.
What do the advanced metrics say?
The underlying metrics love Chatwood and hate Chacin. xFIP claims that Chatwood’s ERA should’ve been half a point lower, and Chacin’s should’ve been a half a point higher. Chatwood profiles as an extreme ground ball pitcher, while Chacin is prone to putting the ball in the air. Chacin’s velocity in 2017 was about average, while Chatwood found his fastball averaging almost 95 MPH, up almost 2 MPH from previous years.
How about their contracts?
Chacin is going to sign a two-year deal worth about $16 million. Chatwood will pitch in Chicago for the next three years and will make $38 million. Chatwood just turned 28 years old, while Chacin is about to turn 30.
Have they pitched in their new home parks before?
Chacin has made three career starts in Miller Park. He owns a 5.12 ERA in 19 1/3 innings of work in Milwaukee. He struck out 16, walked five, and surrendered three homers.
Chatwood has made two starts in Wrigley Field in his career. He won both of them, and owns a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings. He walked three and fanned 11.
How do these moves really compare?
They’re actually pretty similar. Both starters were impacted by their home parks in 2017. Chacin loved pitching in Petco, while Chatwood struggled in Coors. The numbers say that Chacin’s success in 2017 came almost entirely in one of the best pitcher’s parks in the National League. They also say that Chatwood’s numbers were skewed by tossing 70 1/3 innings in the thin Colorado air.
Chatwood comes with a contract that’s more than double the value of Chacin. Chatwood does have the potential to turn his career around by making fewer starters in a hitter-friendly environment. Chacin could end up as a liability to the Milwaukee Brewers because he’ll throw half his games in a hitter-friendly environment.
However, we have seen Tyler Chatwood struggle with control as recently as last year. He’s never thrown more than 158 innings in a Major League season, and he has two Tommy John surgeries on his resume. Chatwood appears to have an advantage on paper, but the games aren’t played on paper. Chacin offers a better value, greater reliability, and can gobble up innings with the best of them. He may not be as flashy, but Chacin could end up as the better move.