by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It was a day of surprising moves in the Majors, and the first came with Tyler Chatwood signing with the Cubs. Maybe where he landed wasn’t shocking, but the contract he was given was. At first blush everyone is going to do a double take when the owner of a career 4.31 ERA and 1.49 WHIP signs a three-year, $38 million contract. We’re not about to justify the contract, but we will say that there is at least some upside as the need for pitching grows around the game.
Still just 28-years old, Chatwood has thrived away from Coors Field over the past two years:
- 2016 – 1.69 ERA over 80.0 IP
- 2017 – 3.49 ERA over 77.1 IP
No one is going to buy into his 2016 mark, especially since the underlying skills bring their own questions. While Chatwood has consistently proven to be a groundball machine (58.1% in ’17), the strikeouts (7.31 K/9) and control (4.69 BB/9) leave a bit to be desired.
He did show an improved SwStr% last season, with a 9.9% mark (7.2% for his career). Part of it was likely due to an increased velocity, as his sinker went from 92.84 mph in ’16 to 94.85 last season (he had a similar uptick in his fourseam fastball). You would think that would help play up his other pitches, and he saw impressive Whiff% across the board:
- Changeup – 21.21%
- Slider – 16.70%
- Curveball – 12.59%
That helps to support the strikeout rate, and maybe gives hope of even more though we aren’t quite ready to bank on that (especially since part of the boost can be attributed to an 8.74 K/9 while working 11.1 IP as a reliever). Even more concerning is his control, having posted a 4.69 BB/9 last season (4.17 for his career). He has never shown much of an ability to generate swings outside the strike zone, with a 26.6% O-Swing% last season (25.7% for his career).
No one is going to say that getting out of Coors Field isn’t going to help, and given his groundball ability there’s always going to be upside. Groundballs alone do not get the job done, and if he can’t improve his strikeout and walk rates the results are going to remain mediocre. Is he worth a late round gamble to see if he can put it together? Absolutely, but don’t make the mistake of characterizing him as a can’t miss asset.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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