Chicago Cubs: Tyler Chatwood is better than you think

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 17: Tyler Chatwood
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 17: Tyler Chatwood /

The Chicago Cubs signed Tyler Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million deal this winter. While some don’t see why the Cubs gave Chatwood the money, the numbers are there to help show why.

The offseason began for the Chicago Cubs with the talk of Alex Cobb being a “sure thing.” It wasn’t a matter of if, it was merely going to be a matter of when. The Cobb talk cooled, and then it moved on to Yu Darvish. That’s an ongoing discussion. But in the middle of that, the Cubs signed Tyler Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million deal. And most fans thought the Cubs were wasting their money on the former Rockies pitcher.

First, if you look at the body of work for Chatwood–one thing should stick out. His home/away splits. In Colorado, Chatwood was 3-8 with a 6.01 ERA. For a playoff team, you might expect better numbers. Well, it wasn’t at home but away that he did his best work. He was only 5-7 away from Coors but saw his ERA drop to a 3.49.

More from Cubbies Crib

Looks good at Wrigley?

And for fun, looking at his brief history at Wrigley Field? In two games he’s struck out 11 while posting a 0.69 ERA over 13 innings. Over the course of a season, those would translate to solid numbers at Wrigley Field.

Chatwood has one of the best curveballs in the game, with a spin rate of 2,980 (fifth best). As hitters become more focused on exit velocity and launch angle, there’s one substantial way to combat that.

Keep it low and away from the hitters and don’t allow them to get under the ball. While Chatwood only threw his curveball about 10 percent of the time, the Cubs might ask him to do more with it.

Some cheese to go with the hook

And this isn’t for lack of a fastball. Two years after his elbow injury (Tommy John, 2nd time), his velocity has seen a steady increase. In 2013-14, his fastball was 93.5. In 2016 as he recovered and worked his way back from TJ, it was just 92.6.

Now, in 2017 it was up to 94.6. It could be attributed to another year back from surgery. He also made a change in his footwork that could have helped. Either way, the improvements are noticeable.

Part of the allure for the Cubs was his groundball rate. Of the 200 starters who allowed 200 batted balls, Chatwood was 11th at just below 55 percent. He might have the ability to get it up to the hitter quick, but it’s his curveball and GB% that the Cubs were most interested in.

Next: Potential backups at catcher in 2018

The biggest concern for the Cubs will very well be his health. After having two Tommy John surgeries, that’s always a concern for the team. But the Cubs were willing to gamble on Chatwood. They got him out of Coors Field which always has its effect on pitchers. He has shown promise since returning from his surgery, and this could be the chance he needed to have a breakout season.