- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
My second appearance on the ESPN Baseball Today podcast was posted on Wednesday afternoon. Starting on Tuesday, March 15th, I'll appear with co-host Eric Karabell three days a week.
Jhoulys Chacin was a key part of why the Rockies stayed in the NL West race as long as they did last year, putting up a 3.28 ERA in 137 innings, and pitching even better (2.98 ERA) as a starter. There's some flukishness in those numbers -- he had a high line-drive rate last year, over 21 percent, but didn't give up as many hits as you'd expect based on that percentage -- but he does have the command and repertoire to settle in as a third or fourth starter for Colorado going forward.
On Tuesday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, Chacin showed a four-seamer at 90-92 MPH and used it heavily until he started mixing in other pitches one by one in the second inning, showing a two-plane curveball at 74-78 (although you can pick up its rotation somewhat early), a two-seamer at 87-89, and a changeup that looks just like his fastball coming out of his hand. Unfortunately he didn't have his usual fastball command on Tuesday, but it helps that he can compensate with one of the other offerings. The knock on Chacin is that he doesn't have a legitimate knockout pitch, four good pitches but nothing plus; when he's on, he'll use the fastball to set up the other offerings, and that certainly worked for him last year. On days where his fastball command is shaky, though, he lacks a good fallback option, and I think the line drive rate reflects the fact that hitters can square up his four-seamer pretty well.
• Scott Kazmir was mostly 86-87 and didn't get through his assigned work; you can survive with that velocity in the National League, or in a pitchers' park with good defense, if you have above-average command and control, two things that have never been mentioned in the same sentence as Scott Kazmir without the word "lacks" somewhere in between.
• Trevor Reckling's fall from grace as a prospect continued -- or was at least unbroken -- with the Rockies' seven-run inning against him on Tuesday, as Reckling wasn't finishing his pitches and worked at mostly 88-89, topping out at 90. His curveball, once his best pitch, was soft and hitters (even left-handed hitters) were having an easy time tracking its break and making contact.
• On the plus side, Jordan Walden impressed with a heavy, heavy fastball at 93-96 that hitters had a difficult time elevating if they could catch up to it in the first place (Seth Smith in particular did all he could just to foul the pitch off). He only threw two offspeed pitches, both changeups, one good, one in the dirt. He just needs to show one pitch that can keep hitters from timing the fastball, but the heater's life down in the zone is good enough for it to work as his primary pitch and make him a very effective late-game option.
Keith Law with a quick bit on how Jhoulys Chacin can help the Rockies in 2011, and a mixed bag for Angels players trying to come back and break through.