One of the areas that the Detroit Tigers have seen a solid performance from is the team's bullpen. It is one of the areas that has been firing on all cylinders, for the most part, being exactly what the team has needed. One of the players who has done this is Andrew Chafin.
The Detroit Tigers signed Chafin this offseason and added him to the bullpen, hoping he would be a big-time shutdown arm when called upon as a setup man. He's done that to this point and been a reliable option for the Tigers this summer.
Chafin came into the season and was very clear about what to expect from him. The left-handed reliever addressed the media in Spring Training, giving a taste of what kind of pitcher he will be. To this point, he has lived up to the statement. Here is one of the comments in a tweet from Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic.
"I don't follow baseball much," Andrew Chafin said.
Does he care for analytics?
"No. You either did good or didn't do good."
What will his meetings w/ Chris Fetter be like?
"Won't be much to say. Up & in, down & away, I bounce a breaking ball, not necessarily in that order." https://t.co/q748GuqnWY
— Cody Stavenhagen (@CodyStavenhagen) March 17, 2022
Chafin has made it very clear that he is not super invested in the data side of the game. He goes out there and does what he excels at and makes corrections when needed to get back to a successful level of performance. Simply put, he has his way of attacking hitters and will not be buying into the data side of things.
The southpaw is not a big fan of “the analytics.”. This clashes a bit with pitching coach Chris Fetter, who has made it clear that advanced statistics and data capture for things like pitch design are a big part of his philosophy. Fetter has a great blend of using data and using experience and other ways of development/coaching to work with guys, but for Chafin, he can avoid using the numbers.
Detroit Tigers reliever Andrew Chafin has lived up to his predictions.
In 2022, Chafin has appeared in 24 games where he has pitched to a 3.26 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, and managed 24 punchouts over 19.1 innings of work. He's surrendered just four walks and been effective at throwing strikes and attacking hitters.
If he gets hit, he gets hit. He's right back to it looking to get the next guy. It speaks to his approach on the mound and circling back to the tweet; it shows that he's a pretty simple guy. As someone who enjoys looking into all types of data to analyze and evaluate what I am seeing while watching games, I decided to see if Chafin's approach has found success.
Looking into his Baseball Savant profile, he certainly has been able to attack hitters and have succeeded in doing so. Looking at his year-by-year numbers, Chafin has been able to get more swings early on in counts, including 0-0 first pitches. Chafin's whiff rate and chase rate are higher, and he has been able to see a regression in chase contact percentage, which implies that when he does get guys to chase, they are whiffing.
Chafin said he wants to attack hitters up and in, then low and away, and then bounce a curveball in. That's his simple A-B-C plan to attack the opposition. With Baseball Savant's zone-by-zone tools, it is easy to see that he has had success doing precisely that. He's gotten whiffs low and away, up and in, and the curveball has been effective low in the zone.
Overall, he's seeing success with a backfoot-breaking ball and finding success with pitches that are chased all around the zone. Something I did notice was that the most damage comes on pitches in the middle third of the zone vertically.
If Chafin splits the zone in half and works in or out, he has a lot more success attacking hitters. There's a lot to like about Chafin's performance with the Tigers in 2022. So if he continues to toss the numbers out the window and keeps going out there to have success against the opposition, the team should be happy.
The only knock on Chafin is that he has been hit hard when he does give up hits. There's got to be ways for him to limit this hard contact and miss barrels a bit more, especially if he is getting whiffs. It's something for Fetter to explore in their conversations, maybe ones that last a little longer than the one joked about above.
Chafin has been solid; the Detroit Tigers should be hoping that he can continue this success throughout the 2022 season, continuing to be an asset for the team.