Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/14/14
Rockies-chacin-earns
Jhoulys Chacin hasn’t thrown a curve ball yet this season. Don’t think he hasn’t noticed. “That was my strikeout pitch,” he said, while agreeing he hasn’t thrown it. But he used it more before the four-man rotation, before the team decided to emphasize ground balls, before he injured his pectoral muscle, and before he learned the benefits of contact. This year, he hasn’t thrown a curve ball. The curve ball thing has been going on for a while. He threw the pitch 15.6% of the time in his debut and then that whittled away gradually to 6.7% last season. His strikeout rate fell from over 20% (and above average) to 14.3% last year, too. But as he threw the pitch less, he got more ground balls, too. At least until last year. Last year, the Rockies tried a four-man rotation with a 75-pitch limit. “I really didn’t like it,” Chacin admitted. The 75 pitch limit was strict, and it was hard for the pitchers to compete with that number hanging over their heads. “But I learned,” said Chacin, “I learned that you have to pitch to contact, too.” With a hard ceiling of 75 pitches, Chacin had to simplify. “Even with two strikes, I had to focus on getting a ground ball,” he said. “I have to get it done,” he remembers thinking. He couldn’t afford to keep trying to get the whiff. You had to go after the hitters and get “quick outs.” So now it’s the fastball, the sinker, the slider and the changeup. Everything down. He’s cut pitches from his plate appearances with the approach. The first two years in the big leagues, he averaged 3.99 pitches per batter. Since, he’s whittled that number down to 3.77. Over the course of a full season, that could make a difference. Face 800 batters, and you’d save 176 pitches, for example. Every pitch counts. But the curve ball can get grounders, too, if you throw it low, and Chacin took care to point that out. The biggest predictor of batted ball trajectory is location, and he was well aware of that fact. Dave Allen once produced a very simple graph that depicted the situation: If he’s throwing the curve ball — his erstwhile strikeout pitch — less often, but not necessarily because of the team’s emphasis on the ground ball, or because of something that happened while they were experimenting with the four-man rotation… why is he throwing the curve ball less often? “It’s hard to throw a curveball in Colorado,” said Chacin. He likes to throw more sliders in Colorado. It’s hard to get that break, that bite in the dry, thin air, perhaps. Here, in San Francisco, Chacin said “you can throw your breaking ball and get the strikeouts.” But in the mountains? “Just throw a ground ball, whatever, get the out,” he said. Chacin is not alone in avoiding the curve in Colorado. Take a look at all pitch types everywhere, and then the pitch types in Colorado, courtesy Jeff Zimmerman: Type Non-CO CO only Change 11.00% 9.80% Curve 9.40% 8.10% Cutter 5.40% 5.00% Four Seam 36.60% 42.70% Split 1.20% 1.40% Two Seam 11.10% 6.40% Sinker 9.20% 7.50% Slider 15.30% 18.50% The story of Jhoulys Chacin is the story of the everypitcher, it seems. The curve actually suffers the most, when it comes to pitch selection in Denver, a finding that Dan Rozenson recently described and explained — the atmosphere robs the pitch of much of its effectiveness. Pitchers throw more four-seamers and sliders in the thin air, and the slider had the most comparative advantage in Rozenson’s study. Jhoulys Chacin seems to have figured out how to pitch for his team. They’re lucky to have him for two more years, but even after that time is over, teams should remember — now he knows how to pitch both ways: “I’ve still got my curveball.”
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Browns feel Josh Gordon 'has to go'

Jets contacted Rex Ryan's agent about replacements for him

Justin Gilbert inactive after being late to team meeting

Report: Browns had to search for Manziel after he threw party

Report: Jim Harbaugh to Michigan is done deal

Amari Cooper not a fan of New Orleans, thinks it smells

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

WATCH: Jennifer Lawrence does Louisville chant at game

WATCH: Did Bret Bielema do ‘Horns Down’ gesture?

Devils unveil unique coaching by committee situation

Report: 49ers expect Jim Harbaugh to take Michigan job

Report: Johnny Manziel fined for being late to treatment

Duke Johnson's mother says son will enter NFL Draft

WATCH: Pats fans serenade Pete Frates with 'Happy Birthday'

Harbaugh rumors affecting Michigan basketball ticket prices?

WATCH: Dez Bryant burns Redskins defender for TD

Detroit bar offering free food, booze if Lions beat Packers

Jameis Winston: I would throw in Richard Sherman's direction

WATCH: Nebraska safety pukes on field, keeps playing

WATCH: Nyquist holds puck for 28 seconds, scores OT winner

WATCH: Kevin Garnett blows in David West's ear

WATCH: Frank Beamer busts a move after bowl win

Bears could clean house after season

Nebraska chancellor booed by Huskers players?

WATCH: Rory McIlroy trolled by 'Sweet Caroline' song

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Pats fans serenade Pete Frates

Browns to part ways with Josh Gordon?

Manziel was late after throwing party?

Amari Cooper not a fan of New Orleans

Harbaugh to Mich. is done deal

WATCH: Jennifer Lawrence supports Louisville with chant

Did Bielema do ‘Horns Down’?

WATCH: Beamer busts a move

Bears could clean house after season

Nebraska chancellor booed by players?

Johnny Manziel fined by Browns

Castro questioned after shooting

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.