Will Wei-Yin Chen prove to the Miami Marlins that he can be just as effective a pitcher on the road as he was at home last season in 2019?
The term Jekyll and Hyde is used often to talk about how an athlete is sometimes at his best and then there are times when he shows how poorly he can play. I’m not sure the reference is relevant in the case of Marlins pitcher Wei-Yin Chen.
What the team did get from its starter was a solid showing at home while a disastrous performance on the road. Had Chen been able to make all of his starts at Marlins Park, we could be discussing how he should have been a Cy Young candidate.
Excuse the exaggeration, but Chen was very good on the home rubber but could not hit the backside of a barn while traveling with his teammates.
Chen, who has dealt with elbow injuries since inking a five-year, $80 million deal in the 2016 offseason with Miami, hopes this will be the season he remains healthy and can pitch with consistency both home and away.
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Chen does have the distinction of being named the starting pitcher for the opening day of the 2016 season, and in doing so, he became the second Taiwanese pitcher to make a start on opening day since Chien-Ming Wang in 2008. Other than that, his career in a Marlins uniform has been suspect at best.
Miami cannot release him because of his contract – which is $20 million for the upcoming season, and trading him is difficult because few teams would take on such salary for a questionable return on its investment. Where the 33-year-old lefty stands now is the third veteran in a pitching rotation that has young arms looking to leapfrog them in the near future.
"As Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald wrote, “Chen was awful on the road, going 1-9 with a 9.27 ERA — the highest in the majors. But he was sensational at Marlins Park, where his 1.62 ERA ranked second only to National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom’s 1.54 home ERA.”"
Getting that kind of production over 30-plus starts would put him in a stratosphere reserved for the best in the game. There is no doubt Chen can pitch well, he just has to stay healthy enough to show the organization and fans what he can accomplish.
Chen could be moved to the bullpen if the Marlins think shorter outings would help his effectiveness on the bump. There are four second-year pitchers, headed by Sandy Alcantara, who have the potential to round out a better than expected rotation.
I don’t see Chen moving out of the rotation as an option right now, but it could be discussed later in the season.
Chen is considered a fly ball pitcher, which in some ballparks is a good thing. The outfield in Marlins Park is spacious, which helps him with power hitters. In other cities, the show porch and the inconsistency of throwing in unfamiliar territory make this a liability.
So does the possibility of a home run to end a game quickly.
"“We’re just going to pitch him on the road the whole spring to get him right,” joked manager Don Mattingly."
In all seriousness, new pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre has his work cut for him trying to make Chen a complete pitcher. If he can help the veteran find rhythm away from home, the Marlins rotation should be better than most of us expect in 2019.