After coming off of Tommy John elbow surgery in the 2008 season, Eastern Michigan pitcher Corey Chaffins struggled in 2009, finishing with a 7.83 ERA while walking 33 in 66 2/3 innings.
“I had a limited pitch count,” said Chaffins, who finished the season with a 5-3 record as the Eagles went 25-35 in coach Jay Alexander’s first season.
This season has been different. With what Chaffins and Alexander describe as an up-and-down season, the team is 22-23. Chaffins is one of the key components. His ERA is now down to 6.28 after 11 starts, and he has thrown four complete games in that span. That shows the confidence Alexander has in his No. 1 pitcher.
“He competes, he expects to win, and our team is actually way more confident than they are in any other situation when he’s on the mound,” Alexander said. “When he’s on the mound they expect to win. And we play different behind him as well.”
What has been Chaffins’ biggest improvement this season is his arm strength.
“I’m not walking people,” said Chaffins, a junior right-hander. “And my strikeouts have pretty much stayed the same.”
Alexander, who still believes Chaffins can improve his stamina, said “now he’s fully healthy and ready to go.”
Cutting his walks down from nearly one every two innings pitched to just 22 in 76 innings pitched this season has helped the future pro prospect improve his career.
“Pitching has been our key,” Alexander said. “Our starters have been going the whole game, and that gives you a great chance to win.”
He also went on to say Chaffins’ 2010 season has been very good and despite a losing record, Alexander said it’s not Chaffins’ own doing.
“That’s our fault,” he said. “He’s given us a chance to win every game, and we just have not done it.”
Chaffins’ increase in arm strength is a big reason for his overall consistency. The Ohio native explained he has four remaining Mid-American Conference starts and wants to guide the team he claims is the strongest he’s seen to a division title.
“We control our own path,” he said.
Alexander and his ace believe it is possible, as with Chaffins pitching, the coach said he believes it’s “lights out.”
“He’s just flat-out a pro prospect,” Alexander said. “He’s a four-pitch guy for strikes, at any time in any count. He’s what the pros like. I wish his velocity was a little higher, because that can mean a little more money in the draft, but the pro guys love the way he throws strikes and the way he strikes people out.”
Eastern Michigan is 11-7 in the MAC West, one game out of first place with upcoming road series against Ball State and Northern Illinois.