After an absolutely abysmal campaign in 2018, Chicago Cubs hurler Tyler Chatwood is trying to pick up the pieces and move forward this season.
Coming into the 2019 season, nobody was giving Tyler Chatwood much of a chance of impacting this pitching staff. He had been put through the ringer, and failed miserably as a member of the Chicago Cubs starting rotation.
The right-hander had turned into a punchline. Many fans (including myself) thought the best course of action would be to release Chatwood and eat the remaining two years on his contract. It didn’t seem logical to throw Chatwood into the bullpen, especially given his unprecedented control issues.
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So far, though, Chatwood has proved us all wrong. He’s even emerging as a weapon for the Cubs.
Chatwood coming up big
When Jon Lester went to the IL with hamstring tightness, the Cubs inserted Chatwood into the rotation for a spot start against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Joe Maddon only expected him to go a few innings before turning things over to the bullpen, but Chatwood had other plans. The hurler dazzled through six innings, allowing just two hits and no runs in a Cubs victory. For the first time since being acquired in free agency, Chatwood looked like a pitcher who trusted his stuff.
After the start it was back to the pen. On Sunday, Maddon summoned Chatwood out of the pen to try to get the team out of a bases-loaded jam – and, once again, the righty came through. He confidently pumped a trio fastballs by pinch hitter Ryan Murphy to end the inning.
Chatwood even ended up doubling and scoring the game winning run later in the game. During this performance, he shared another look that had not been seen during his dismal 2018 season. He wasn’t disheveled or disgusted, it was a look of a guy who was finally having fun playing baseball.
Is it sustainable?
Chatwood has appeared in seven games for the Cubs in 2019. He’s 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA. However, he’s still walking too many guys. He currently has a 1.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio and is walking nearly six and a half batters per nine.
Both stats are slight improvement from the previous season, but there is still room for more growth. Chatwood has the stuff to be effectively wild, and we’ve seen his ability to induce soft contact when he’s on his game. If he can continue his progression, he will have an opportunity to play a vital role for the Cubs in 2019. With a thin bullpen and an aging rotation, Chatwood has the potential to be a key piece for this team.
Time will tell if Chatwood can continue to impress, but he deserves respect for what he has accomplished thus far. Chatwood experienced the worst year of his professional career last season. It was a year that was so bad, that a change of scenery seemed to be inevitable. He was broken and had completely lost the ability to throw strikes.
Through it all, Chatwood never made excuses. He took ownership and worked diligently in the offseason. For a guy everyone had given up on to put himself in position to see consistent playing time was something that nobody envisioned, and it has potential to be the feel good story of the Chicago Cubs season.