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2018 #4 Most Valuable Brewer: Jhoulys Chacin

A free agent signing that flew under the radar for most people ended up being the team’s most valuable starting pitcher

MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The fan reaction when the Brewers signed Jhoulys Chacin ranged anywhere from “meh” to “this is not Jake Arrieta and I am angry about it.” He was pretty much the definition of an afterthought free agent signing, at least until he became the only free agent starting pitcher the Brewers signed (unless you choose to count Yovani Gallardo, but the less said about that ill-fated the return, the better).

Chacin ended up being a steal of a signing, proving to be worth every penny of the 2-year, $15 million deal he signed in the first year of the deal alone. You voted him as this year’s 4th-Most Valuable Brewer.

Never missing a start, Chacin served as the Brewers’ initial-out-getter 35 times this season, throwing 192.2 innings with a very solid 3.50 ERA/4.03 FIP. His 2.6 fWAR, while not ace-like, was his highest mark since he put up 3.9 fWAR in 2013 with the Colorado Rockies.

He was also one of the few starters Craig Counsell allowed to work deep into games, pitching into the 7th inning 8 times, and getting through the 7th 4 times, both team highs. That proved to be valuable when it came to saving the arms of the bullpen, allowing the likes of Josh Hader to get an extra day off and keeping some of the team’s shakier middle relievers off the mound.

Chacin’s best start of the year came in August against the Chicago Cubs, in the first game of what was at the time a very important two-game set in Chicago while the Brewers tried to stay within striking distance in the NL Central race. Going up against the Brewers’ nemesis Jose Quintana, Chacin held the Cubs to 3 hits over 7 shutout innings, striking out 10 in what ended up being a 7-0 Brewers win. Chacin was staked out to a 3-0 lead before he ever took the mound that afternoon thanks to Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun — this was the Let’s Funning Go game — but never gave the Cubs a chance to get back into it.

It was one of 6 outings for Chacin this year in which he did not allow a run, and he allowed just 1 run in another 12 starts, meaning he held opponents to a run or less in more than half of his starts on the year. Even the most optimistic among us on Chacin — and I was one of them — couldn’t have imagined that level of effectiveness.

If you want to define a disastrous outing as one in which a pitcher gives up more runs and innings pitched, Chacin only had 2 such outings in his 35 starts. In a year where the Brewers’ rotation felt like it was a mishmash bubble gum and paper clips, Chacin was often the gum holding everything together.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference