Tyler Chatwood recorded his first win as a member of the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night in Cleveland. He remained wild, walking five through six-plus.
Theo Epstein wasted no time signing Tyler Chatwood to a three-year deal last December. The move marked the first major pitching signing of the free agent class. Many of the top talent, as we know now, held out till the spring before signing.
In Chatwood, Epstein figured to get a guy whose best years could still be ahead of him, at a premium price. He also filled one of his needs by replacing veteran John Lackey at the back end of the Cubs rotation.
On Tuesday night in Cleveland, Chatwood put together his best performance as a Cub. The right-hander allowed just one earned run through six innings of work against a strong Indians lineup. He struck out five and walked five en route to his first victory with his new team.
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Chatwood is an interesting case. Over the past two seasons he is tied with Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals for the second-lowest road ERA in the National League at 2.57. That number trails only the Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw‘s 2.16 clip.
Chatwood’s ERA ballooned while pitching at Coors Field. Last season, he was 3-8 with a 6.01 ERA at home in Denver. The Cubs are hoping the move from the notoriously hitter-friendly Coors will bring out the qualities that have made him a successful starting pitcher on the road.
Chatwood has walked at least five batters in three of his first four starts with the Cubs. The one exception was April 10 against the Pirates, where he walked just one batter over five innings. But, in this outing, he was hit around and allowed five earned (the most of any of his four starts).
He may be a pitcher who benefits from being wild. Some guys are more effective when they don’t give in to a hitter and focus on making their pitch. I’m not suggesting Chatwood should keep walking batters, but its noteworthy that he has shown the ability to pitch out of jams better than trying to stay out of them altogether.
Thus far, Chatwood has a team-high 7.9 walks per nine innings, soaring past his career mark of 4.6. While his walks are way up, so are his strikeouts. His 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings is well-above his 6.2 K/9 mark for his career.
I’d expect Chatwood’s command to become better once he settles in to his new environment. The encouraging sign here is that Chatwood’s stuff came as advertised; he’s missing bats more than he ever has in the past.
The walks could always going to be a part of Chatwood’s game, but look for him to emerge as a formidable piece to this talented rotation.