2018 Rating: 5.46
2017 Rating: 6.95
2018 Performance: 77 G, 49.1 IP, 1-6, 3.10 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 140 ERA+, 9.7 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 0 HR ,
0.9 bWAR, 1.0 fWAR
2018 Salary: Arb 1, $1,195,000
2019 Status: Arb 2, EST $2,200,000
From 2014-2017 Andrew Chafin threw 163 MLB innings, posting a respectable 3.65 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and 119 ERA+. So on the surface, his 2018 ERA/FIP and other numbers shown above look like a considerable improvement. However few relievers elicited more groans when he entered the game in a tight situation than Chafin. So why the disconnect ?
In a word: Leverage.
Andrew struggled most when it counted most, and specifically struggled with throwing strikes in the most important situations and to first batters. Time and time it seemed like he was brought in to face a batter and that runner got on base by walk or hit, and Torey had to go get another reliever to try to shut things down. There are stats and splits for showing how well a player did in High, Medium, and Low Leverage situations available at both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. I’ll be using the FG version for this part of the article.
Most are familiar with the Win Expectancy graph and the WPA heroes and goats that are highlighted at the bottom of each game recap. If you are not familiar with WPA, and Win Expectancy, then please read HERE. Simply put each play is assigned a numeric value for how much it added or subtracted to the odds of winning that specific game. That value is assigned to the player and added up. Players that did well in high leverage situations have positive numbers, and those that did poorly have negative numbers.
In 2018, Anrew Chafin’s WPA was -0.88. That was the 11th worst number among 94 NL Relievers with 40 or more IP. Table Link Here. Don’t forget to check out number 9 by the way. Also if you click on the WPA column header it will sort again from best to worst as well.
Here is the summary for Chafin’s career in High Leverage:
As you can see, the inability to throw strikes in high leverage situations has been there for most of his career. He gets plenty of K’s, and doesn’t give up homers, but he simply walks too many batters, and when he’s not walking them, he’s falling behind in the count and then grooving pitches that get hammered, hence the high BABIP.
When he is in medium leverage situations, his walk rate is 4.5/9, which is still not great, but better than the 7.4 BB/9 he has in high leverage. When he is in low leverage, the BB/9 drops all the way down to 2.8/9.
Now these may all be small sample sizes, however the trend has been so pervasive from year to year, that it’s pretty hard to deny that Andrew has a problem throwing strikes in high pressure situations. His first batter efficiency especially was extremely poor. I asked Torey Lovullo about that during one of the post game interviews, and he was quite frankly somewhat exasperated...(either by Chafin, the question, or both). He made it clear they were well aware of the problem and had tried various measure to address it, but clearly none were effective.
Chafin has great stuff. There is plenty of swing and miss in his game. He doesn’t allow homeruns. He induces a lot of groundballs. “Other than that.......” were it not for this one singular flaw in his game, he would be a borderline elite reliever. But it’s a huge flaw that can’t be overlooked. Whether or not he can overcome whatever it is that causes him to be so wild in tight situations will be the key for his 2019 season and beyond.