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Jhoulys Chacín’s season slid away from him

The Opening Day starter for the Brewers was released on Monday.

Milwaukee Brewers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

On March 28th, Jhoulys Chacín started Opening Day for the Brewers. On August 26th, it was announced that Jhoulys Chacín was released. After becoming the de facto ace for a team that nearly won the National League pennant a year ago, Chacín’s ERA hovered around 6.00 for most of the season before suffering a lat strain at the end of July.

In 2017, when Chacín was with the Padres, the right-hander began relying on his slider more and more. It had long been his best pitch, but for the early part of his career, Chacín prescribed to the traditional pitching philosophy that everything works off the fastball. Between 2017 and 2018, there wasn’t a pitcher with a more valuable slider in baseball. At 47.1 runs, Chacín’s slider outclassed the likes of Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Clayton Kershaw.

This season, Chacín threw his slider a career-high 50.3 percent of the time. Though the results on the pitch didn’t match his 2017 and 2018 levels, they were still good. Hitters whiffed at 24.3 percent of the sliders they swung at. When they did make contact, it was often soft. Hitters had just a .287 xwOBA against the pitch. After averaging 23.5 runs the previous two years, the slider was worth 7.4 runs this year.

Chacín didn’t always have the pitch working the way he wanted it to, but the problem wasn’t the slider nor was it the changeup that he sprinkled in sporadically. It was his fastballs. By pitch values, Chacín’s four seamer and sinker were worth -20.5 runs. Hitters maintained a .431 xwOBA against his sinker and a .480 xwOBA against the four seamer. 12 of Chacín’s 19 homers allowed came on fastballs despite only accounting for 43.8 percent of the pitches he threw.

The long ball was a major thorn in his side this year. 19 homers is one more than he allowed in 2018, but he threw over 100 fewer innings. The increase in dingers doesn’t have a clear culprit. His pitches didn’t lose velocity though they did lose a little bit of movement. The location on Chacín’s pitches were roughly the same. It appears to be a confluence of the livelier ball with a few more mistakes to location.

If a team isn’t scared off by the home run problems (and if Chacín can get healthy), he’s a free agent available for the major league minimum. The Phillies are perpetually in need of pitching help, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. They’ve had mild success with another reclamation project this year in Drew Smyly. Oakland also feels like a likely destination. The rotation doesn’t have a clear spot, but the bullpen has been shaky this year, a fact highlighted by the Giants dropping an eight-run inning against them on Saturday.

The Brewers will try to manage with a rotation of Zach Davies, Gio González, Adrian Houser, Jordan Lyles, and Chase Anderson until Brandon Woodruff returns in mid-September. Woodruff has been out since July 21st with an oblique strain.

2019 didn’t go the way Jhoulys Chacín wanted it to, especially with him being a free agent at the end of the year, but he’s still just 31. He’ll have a chance to bounce back whether that’s this season or next.

Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.