Pitcher Spotlight: Don’t Forget About Yonny Chirinos

On the most exciting parts of spring is the chaos that comes with early success. Hype trains are lining up at the station and you stand in the center wondering which tickets to buy, where your train is headed, and if you’re too late to get on board. Yonny Chirinos left the station in early April, crashing for owners by the end of it as he was sent to the DL with a forearm strain, turning into a three-month departure from the majors pitching in Triple-A and nursing a sore shoulder.

But it’s the end of July and Chirinos has returned, making quite the entrance through a 6.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BB, 6 Ks performance against the Yankees. This is big, guys. Big.

I love writing these Pitcher Spotlight articles because I get to talk about best-case scenarios. I get to defend the forgotten arms and tell you how they could be productive when few consider them on the wire. Chirinos has been sitting on your wire for three months and it’s finally time to reconsider him for your squad – even in that 12-team league.

I even have a magical sentence to speak before I discuss the upside in Chirinos’ repertoire: He faces the Orioles and White Sox in his next two starts.

Now that I have your attention, let’s dive into why Chirinos could take full advantage of two terrible lineups. I love talking repertoires and I’m going to gladly use this as an excuse to breakdown Chirinos’ arsenal using GIFs from him most recent start against the Yankees.

Fastball

You know what I hate doing? Talking about a pitcher’s worst offering first. I want to get you excited! Curious! Attached to this player and begin the journey wide-eyed and full of wonder. But Chirinos’ heater – predominately a sinker – just isn’t all that great:

Yonny Chirinos’ Sinker
Usage % O-Swing % Zone % Whiff % BAA BABIP ISO pVal
Sinker 55.4% 32.1% 49.4% 7.2% .333 .351 .079 -0.2

Those aren’t inherently terrible but if Chirinos were ever going to be a Top 40 arm, here is where we need to see the largest leap. Because of its sink, he does a good job of limiting XBH with the pitch (.079 ISO!) but its high BABIP is a product of how its erratic nature both in and out of the zone.

There are times that the pitch looks phenomenal. Check out this front-door heater that Neil Walker couldn’t handle for strike three:

And then there are times when we fails to command it and it gets hit around:

The GIF above is more like the typical Chirinos heat. He has a sub 50% zone rate with the pitch, failing to spot it as he pleases, leading to a .333 BAA and 90.5% Z-Contact rate across its 265 pitches this year.

Nevertheless, given its ability to limit the longball, it’s a good enough pitch to set the table for secondary pitches to get the job done, especially if he has the confidence to throw one of them often for a strike.

Slider

Guess what. Chirinos throws his slider confidently for a strike:

Yonny Chirinos’ Slider
Usage % O-Swing % Zone % Whiff % BAA BABIP ISO pVal
Slider 21.8% 36.7% 52.9% 15.4% .273 .353 .182 0.1

Having the ability to pitch backward is a valuable asset and even though he features his slider piece under 25% of the time, Chirinos bumps up its usage above 35% across all counts against right-handers.

I’m not kidding. All counts:

He abandons the pitch completely against left-handers, but we’ll get to that in a moment. For now, here’s what the pitch looks like:

This is good. Very good. Still inside the zone, yet it induced a whiff as it was located perfectly on the low-outside corner. It’s rare to see a pitch featured over 50% of the time for a strike yet feature a 15%+ whiff rate, but that’s what we’re dealing with from Chirinos. And let’s not forget that 36.7% O-Swing either:

Wait a second, that’s to a left-hander! And a full-count! And perfectly placed in the blind spot!

I was a bit excited to see Chirinos boldly go for this pitch and execute it perfectly for a huge first out in a jam. I’m not sure we’re going to see it often, but considering this was the penultimate pitch of his evening, it might carry over into future outings.

In the end, there are still some issues with the pitch – its .353 BABIP and .182 ISO are products of some inconsistencies over the plate – but overall I see a pitch with good action that should continue to be a staple of Chirinos’ gameplan. There’s upside to act as a strikeout offering, but mostly its a solid complement to his sinker as it can get strikes often without allowing too much damage.

Splitter

That brings us to the fun stuff. The pitch that makes Chirinos a possible option to feast on weak lineups. I’ll stop talking and simply show you his fantastic putaway pitch:

And here are its numbers for the season:

Yonny Chirinos’ Splitter
Usage % O-Swing % Zone % Whiff % BAA BABIP ISO pVal
Splitter 22.8% 41.8% 38.5% 19.3% .086 .100 .114 1.5

With every starter, we’re looking for a pair of pitches he trusts to get strikes and one offering that can rack up whiffs. Seeing a 42% O-Swing with a 19%+ whiff rate fits the bill, even if it finds the zone under 40% of the time. It’s collecting strikeouts and when it doesn’t batters are also struggling to make good contact, adding up to a .100 BABIP and .114 ISO.

These are wonderful numbers, especially for a type of pitch that is often wildly inconsistent. Splitters are the toughest for a pitcher to command effectively start-to-start and to see Chirinos have constant success with it makes me confident in his ability to continue hinting a 20% whiff rate in future starts.

He has the deadly weapon, he has the pitches to get strikes, he has all you need to make it work.

Conclusion

I’m not classifying Chirinos as a must-add in 12-teamers. The Rays haven’t fully come clean if Chirinos is even starting tomorrow. His sinker needs improvement and there’s no guarantee that both his slider and splitter are effective in either the expected Orioles or White Sox outing. However, there’s upside to be had here and for a pitcher that is currently owned in under 1% of ESPN leagues, there’s a good chance to take advantage of value in your league.

This could go horribly wrong. This could also turn into a starter that you’re using down the stretch in your playoffs. For now, if you’re hurting for a starter, Chirinos could be a bit of short-term relief against a pair of weak lineups.





Nick Pollack is the founder of PitcherList.com and has written for Washington Post, Fantasy Pros, and CBS Sports. He can be found making an excessive amount of GIFs on twitter at @PitcherList.

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LenFuego
4 years ago

That is a very nice write-up, Nick. Informative, well written and engaging. Bravo.

The sinker looks almost more like a screwball – dipping not down but in the opposite direction of a slider. It seems like it would be more effective if it was a true sinker, because when he gets it up, it stays in the same plane as the batter’s swing and so the batter still makes good contact even if they are fooled.

Jimmember
4 years ago
Reply to  LenFuego

Yes, indeed. Good analysis, good writing, good organization.