Chad Bettis has quietly been the Colorado Rockies’ most reliable starting pitcher since the start of the 2018 season. While the team is only 17 games into the season, Bettis has been very formidable during his three starts. Will he continue to pitch on this level? Or, will he regress back into his old, inefficient ways? Let’s take a look…
After Chad Bettis was drafted in 2010, he had a very up and down start to his career. Bettis struggled as a starter. Then he moved to the bullpen where he continued to struggle. Finally, moving back to the starter’s role in 2015. Chad Bettis spent his first full season in the Rockies’ starting rotation in 2016. He wasn’t particularly lights out. However, Bettis did flash a bit of promise, amassing 138 strikeouts over 189 innings with an ERA of 4.79. Just shortly after the season had ended, Chad Bettis went through a tough bout with cancer.
After a series of treatments, and now being cancer-free, Chad Bettis’ return to the Rockies in August of the 2017 season is undoubtedly one of the greatest comeback stories in baseball history. However, after watching his nine starts in 2017, it was clear that he was not the same pitcher anymore. According to FanGraphs’ Velocity Chart, his average fastball velocity had diminished significantly. So far, this 2018 season, his fastball velocity is holding a steady average in the low nineties, as well.
Despite the significant drop in velocity, the fastball hasn’t really been an issue for Chad Bettis so far this season. However, speaking strictly from the ol’ eye test, Chad has pitched fairly well. The primary proponent of his success being his ability to manipulate and locate off-speed pitches. Including his spring games, it genuinely appears that Bettis has found a way to adapt to life without a mid-nineties fastball. The prime example of this was during his last start Thursday night against the Washington Nationals.
A couple of at-bats against Chad Bettis probably wouldn’t be worth noting this early in the season…except that Bettis was facing off against the red-hot, star outfielder for the Nationals, Bryce Harper. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Bettis took down Harper by attacking early with a mix of fastballs and change-ups, setting up with a curve ball and ultimately pulling the string on one to get Harper out on a swinging strike.
Then, once again in the bottom of the sixth inning, Bettis took a very similar approach against Harper. He threw a fastball high and inside, sets him up with a couple of slow curve balls, before drawing a swing and miss for the K from Harper on his money pitch of the night, the change up.
Aside from racking up two fist-pump-inducing strikeouts on Bryce Harper and three good starts, the overall data doesn’t exactly support his progression.
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We know Bettis is only three starts into the season. So, you have to take this small of a data sample with a grain of salt. Bettis’ BB% is almost double his career average…but his WHIP is way below his career average. So, what does that mean? In the grand scheme of things, it would appear that Chad Bettis has came to embrace his role as a finesse, tactician-type starting pitcher. He is battling hitters, occasionally losing deep in counts to give up a few walks. However, he’s still not giving up a ton of hits.
To simplify that: he’s bending but not breaking.
Chad Bettis can sustain this level of performance by continue to focus on attacking hitters with his speedy delivery, off-speed junk and not trying to “thread a needle” with every pitch. He has to walk less batters. The Rockies’ National League West opponents, in particular, will certainly take advantage of being given free base runners. To play off Chad’s simple approach from earlier, he will eventually bend to the point of breaking if he does not stop giving up walks.
Bettis looks to continue the great start to his season by facing off against the pesky Pittsburgh Pirates, who are off to a surprising 11-4 record to start the 2018 campaign. Rox Pile has hit the highway for the Rockies’ current roadtrip. We will be in Pittsburgh for the final three games of this seven game road trip. Follow @RoxPile on Twitter for more information on Chad along with additional coverage and content!
[ Statistics for this article were provided by Fangraphs. ]