Snap Throw: Jhoulys Chacin’s short leash in Cincinnati

Snap Throw is a recurring feature on BtB taking a deeper look at the pivotal moments in games. Have an idea for a snap throw? Tweet us @Bronx2Bushville #SnapThrow and a link to a video.

Last night served as the inaugural National Josh Hader Awareness Day. Hader, doing a Chris Sale-by-way-of-Andrew Miller act, has fully grown into the late-inning executioner/unicorn so few teams have outside of their closers. In tossing his Wilhelm–a save of greater than two innings, as opposed to the Gossage/Sutter of more than one inning but less than two–and annihilating eight Cincinnati Reds by way of pure filth strikeouts, Hader not only entered a 2 2/3 inning save, but the history books as well and set Twitter alight in the process, leaving all who witnessed it drinking deeply from the Haderade chalice.

Lost in the fervor and a hard-fought 6-5 come-from-behind victory at Great American Ball Park was Brewers starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin.

Chacin, the 30-year-old right-handed journeyman, signed with the Brewers on a manageable two-year deal in the offseason. While inconsistent with his four prior clubs, his strikeout numbers (nearly 2:1 K/BB, avg. 7 K/9) and electric stuff keep him on radars around the league. The problem is that electric stuff is often too electric and lends itself to walks (career 3.7 BB/9) and grooved fastballs (nearly 1 HR/9, approx. 1.35 WHIP.) When, or if, a team could get Chacin to harness the movement on his pitches, they’d have a bargain bin revelation.

After a choppy start, Chacin appeared to be finding his groove in his three prior starts. While not dazzling, they did show signs of him settling down: three ER in those starts, starting to go deeper in games than he had previously, better ball-to-strike ratios, generally showing signs of turning the corner. Then, in last night’s Queen City tilt, manager Craig Counsell pulled Chacin in the fifth inning with one out and men on the corners. It was abrupt and took viewers, insiders and announcers alike off guard. Chacin’s replacement, lefty Dan Jennings faced Joey Votto and Scott Schebler and was himself replaced by Jacob Barnes, who finally got the Brewers out of the inning. By the time the fifth came to an end, it was 5-3 Reds and the Brewers were in a recently-unfamiliar position of being betrayed by their pitching.

So, what happened with Chacin?

This ground has been covered in part by a prior Snap Throw on erstwhile Brewers pitcher Matt Garza: a team that has postseason aspirations can’t afford to take too many risks. Chacin was a relative value signing at a time when many Brewers followers were in hysterics for one of the big-name free agent pitchers: Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb. Also covered here before is our editorial insistence that the Brewers didn’t have to make an aggressive free agent pitching splash, that there were solutions already in the system that could fill in, and Jimmy Nelson‘s return as the team’s ace is imminent.

If anything, I believe this move signals an organizational pivot: more to the point, the call to the dugout Monday night may as well have come from David Stearns or Mark Attanasio: with the Brewers entering game action Monday second in ERA, third in ER and with a WHIP of 1.18, the time is now to make moves to ensure sustainable success from the bump. Chase Anderson starts Tuesday and Wade Miley makes his Brewers debut Wednesday; Brandon Woodruff was recalled after Eric Thames went on the DL. Brent Suter moved to the bullpen. This is a team that is looking to shift gears and cannot afford to have two slow starters (the other being Zach Davies) figuring things out in real-time.

Is this the last we’ve seen of Chacin? Probably not, but the message is clear. Struggling pitchers will no longer be tolerated with a wide-open window and reinforcements at the ready. The rotation would be Nelson-Anderson-Davies with Junior Guerra, Miley and Woodruff right there, along with emerging farm talent like Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes, Aaron Wilkerson and Adrian Houser banging on the big league door.

The Brewers have the financial flexibility to move on and the talent in-house to move forward. Something’s got to give, and Chacin has to be considered the most expendable of the bunch.

Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.

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