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2017 Arizona Diamondbacks Review: # 15, Andrew Chafin

He’s great! He sucks! He’s great again! Oh, volatility - thy name is relief pitching...

  • Date of birth: June 17, 1990
  • 2017 line: 71 games, 51.1 IP, 3.51, 61:21 K:BB
  • 2017 value: 1.0 bWAR
  • 2017 salary: league minimum
  • SnakePit rating: 6.95

2017 analysis

Andrew Chafin had a stellar rookie campaign in 2015, posting a 2.76 ERA over 75 innings for the D-backs. With a FIP of 3.35 that year, some regression was perhaps expected. But the following season, his ERA ballooned to 6.75 - even as his FIP dropped by half a run, to 2.84 - thanks to a meaty .375 batting average on balls in play. Which Chafin would turn up this season? The answer was more or less the 2015 version: his FIP was almost the same (3.39) and the ERA was more than three runs better than last year, at 3.51. Andrew led the team in appearances, with 71, and was particularly tough on left-handers, holding them to a .565 OPS - 227 points below what righties did.

As the year wore on, Chafin was used more as a LOOGY. Of his final 21 games, including a trio in the post-season, only three involved 3+ outs. He became less a weapon, more a left-handed scalpel - particularly against Charlie Blackmon of Colorado. The K above was the first of five battles between the two, including three consecutive nights (Sep 11-13), where Andrew came in from the bullpen to face Blackmon, retired him and exited. The last was perhaps the most vital. Chafin relieved Zack Greinke in the wild-card game with the tying run at the plate, and got Blackmon to fly out to A.J. Pollock in center, prompting the reaction at top.

I wonder if the switch to this role was perhaps in response to a bit of fatigue? Chafin was stellar up until the All-Star break: he had a 1.80 ERA in the first-half, with 40 strikeouts and only 10 walks over 30 innings of work. But from after the break through the end of August, there was a bump in the road, with his ERA being six. While a hefty BABIP (.391) likely played a role there, Andrew’s peripherals were also weaker, with a K:BB ratio of only 13:10 in fifteen innings during this time. However, he then finished strong again there, having a K:BB of 8:1 in September. But as ever, it’s hard to tell how much of this variation is simply that bane of relief analysis: volatility.

He also managed to crack a tooth during a game, breaking a crown because he was chewing his gum too hard. He said, “I just gave up a double so I was a little bitter so I probably chomped my gum a little harder than normal. It was a tooth I had a root canal on and fillings, then we put a crown on top of it. so once you grind it all the way down and put a crown on it there ain’t much there. It’s like a little stir stick straw thing holding my tooth together... I went back in the dugout and smiled and everybody said, ‘What happened?’ They said, ‘You’re a hillbilly, teeth falling out and all that stuff.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s about right.’”

2018 prospects

Chafin is one of the few players who seems, health permitting, to be guaranteed a spot in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen next year. With the potential loss of Jorge De La Rosa to free agency, Andrew seems likely to become the team’s primary left-handed reliever. He will be eligible for arbitration next year for the first time, but his price should still be very reasonable - MLB Trade Rumors estimate Chafin’s 2018 salary at $1.2 million.

It will be interesting to see how much the team uses him in short spurts of one or two batters. Over his career, rather than just last season, there has been quite a significant platoon split:
vs. RHB: 2.02 K:BB, .254/.340/.375 = .715 OPS
vs. LHB: 2.64 K:BB, .201/.281/.270 = .552 OPS
which would suggest it’s probably best to use him in a role that sees a lot of left-handed batters. His favorite chew-toy, Blackmon, may not be around so much in 2018, as he’s a free-agent (and “Getting away from Andrew Chafin” is likely high on his list of interests, based on performance down the stretch!). However, there are still plenty of left-handers in the division Chafin could face, such as Cody Bellinger and Joe Panik.

But I wonder if he ever did sell his truck?