Chicago Cubs: Hoping for a new Tyler Chatwood, but expecting the same

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /
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After coming up with several clutch outs on Saturday, some might think Tyler Chatwood is turning the corner in his Chicago Cubs career. You’d be wrong.

Sitting in the left field bleachers, my wife looked over at me, intensely focused on the game Saturday afternoon. “What’s wrong,” she asked. “Why aren’t you having fun?” Of course, I was enjoying myself. I mean, sitting at Wrigley Field watching the Chicago Cubs on a Saturday afternoon? That’s the dream.

“Tyler Chatwood starts scare me,” I told her. “He can go from really good to really bad on a dime.”

Though I anxiously waited for the wheels to come off, Chatwood twisted and turned his way out of danger, departing in the sixth having allowed just one hit – a Matt Carpenter home run. Any time your fifth starter lasts into the sixth and tosses a one-hitter, you should be happy, right?

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Wrong.

I’m a numbers guy, so I kept an eye on the ribbon board above the third base concourse all afternoon, constantly checking Chatwood’s strike percentage. When it was all said and done, the right-hander tossed 84 pitches – 40 of which were strikes. That works out to 47 percent.

By contrast, in the nightcap, Mike Montgomery threw 87 pitches, tossing 54 strikes in the process. Do the math and you see the left-hander threw strikes 15 percent more often than Chatwood. And, if you look past the one run, one hit effort from the right-hander, it’s not hard to see why.

He issued six walks on the afternoon, his highest in a single start since back on June 7 when he walked seven Phillies in a no-decision. Clearly, Chatwood limited the damage stemming from the free passes, but the fact he just keeps adding to his Major League-leading walk total isn’t helping me sleep any better at night.

After Saturday, though, I hope we’re turning a corner. His game-changing 1-2-3 inning-ending double play in the fifth marked the high point in his still young Cubs career. Once he made that play, he roared as he walked off the mound – really, one of the first positive memories he’s given us – or himself – this season.

"“I haven’t had many things go my way lately,” Chatwood said after the win. “[DeJong] hit a ball hard off me [his] at-bat before, so any time you can get out of bases loaded, one out with no runs is big. Big momentum going back into dugout as well.”"

That moment very well could help spur change in the Cubs hurler. But it’s far from a guarantee. Furthermore, the control issues that have gotten him in trouble all season weren’t absent – something I’m sure we’ll all overlook given the outcome of the game.

Lasting into the sixth and walking six? That’s good enough for a standing ovation. At least, it was on Saturday. I’ve seen many an ovation at the Confines over the years, but never under such circumstances. That’s just where the bar sits for Tyler Chatwood right now, for better or worse.

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For now, let’s appreciate the effort he turned in during this latest outing. But know that some of the troubling trends that have led to fairly disappointing results weren’t absent – and could very well prove costly again down the home stretch.

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