The Chicago White Sox may be favored to win the American League Central this season but the Detroit Tigers are far from willing to concede that point. In fact, recent offseason moves tend to indicate that the Tigers think they could be thinking about a division title.
General manager Al Avila has been very busy this off-season and has made a splash with some new additions. Detroit added catcher Tucker Barnhardt, pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, and shortstop Javy Baez to a young core of players looking to improve on last season’s 77-85 record.
Avila has an emerging closer in all-star Gregory Soto, who finished with 18 saves to go along with a 6-3 record and 76 strikeouts in 63.2 innings. The team has some very young bullpen arms but went looking for an established pitcher to help groom them and be the bridge to Soto.
The solution for that issue may be the addition of veteran lefty Andrew Chafin. The 31-year-old started off 2021 with the Chicago Cubs before being dealt to the Oakland A’s.
The Chicago White Sox will have a hard time facing Andrew Chafin in 2022.
Chafin was very effective for both teams as he posted a combined 1.81 ERA in 68.2 innings of work. He provided Oakland with solid relief work by posting four of his five saves down the stretch for the A’s during their push for the playoffs.
Aside from being a veteran presence that can help guide the young pitching talent, Chafin can shut down a team’s offense from both sides of the plate. Against lefties, Chafin posted a .170 batting average while righties fared slightly better at .196.
In an era of pitchers regularly topping 95 miles an hour, Chafin is a bit of an anomaly in that his fastball is in the low 90s, yet hitters seem to have just as much difficulty getting the bat to the ball. According to Statcast, Chafin made it tough on hitters to square up pitches, ranking in the top 15 percent of pitchers in chase rate and hard-hit percentage.
He had a very respectable strikeout to walk ratio of 3.37 and didn’t take too long in completing an outing by averaging 13.79 pitches per inning. Last season, Chafin recorded the second most holds for his career with 22, one lower than his high of 23 in 2019.
The sinker is Chafin’s most thrown pitch, tossing it over 45% of the time. However, it is his slider that produces his best results with a whiff percentage of 54.6 and a 32.6 put-away percentage.
Chafin will be added to a bullpen featuring former first-round picks Michael Fulmer and Kyle Funkhouser. Fulmer is especially happy to have Chafin join the bullpen, telling reporters:
"“He’s going to help us out a lot, especially from the left side. This bullpen’s getting better and better.”"
The White Sox went 12-7 against the Tigers last season but duplicating that total will be a tough task. General manager Rick Hahn knows the division is improving which makes repeating as Central champs a difficult thing to do.