Chicago Cubs: Can Tyler Chatwood work as a late-inning reliever?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

After a much-maligned first year in a Chicago Cubs uniform, Tyler Chatwood has been a little better this season. The walks are down, begging the question if he’d work as a late-inning guy.

The Chicago Cubs Tyler Chatwood stepped in yesterday for Jon Lester, who was sick before his start in San Francisco, or the Cubs were holding him back for the Brewers, whichever you prefer. Chatwood hung in there, pitching four innings, giving up just one run on four hits, striking out five, and most importantly only walking one-hitter.

His fastball was touching 96-98 consistently, and the radar gun even read 99 for one pitch. The numbers aren’t too convincing this year, with a reliever ERA of 4.06 and a starter’s ERA of 4.26, but Chatwood has been used sparingly as a pitcher and hasn’t been able to get in a rhythm. He has only pitched out of the pen 39 times in his career.

Ian Kennedy is a perfect example of what Chatwood can be out of the bullpen. As a starter for most of his career, Kennedy’s average velocity on his fastball was 92-93 mph. As a full-time reliever this year, it’s up to 94-95. For Chatwood, as a full-time starter, his velocity was 93-95. Now, primarily coming out of the bullpen, he is up to 95-97 mph.

More from Cubbies Crib

Stuff like that matters to pitchers and can make them harder to hit. The walk rate is still incredibly too high at almost 5 BB/9, but it’s still down 4 BB from last season, and out of the bullpen the walk rate would be minimized/covered up.

Pedro Strop has struggled, Brandon Morrow is still injured, Carl Edwards Jr. may be permanently broken, and Steve Cishek pitches every day. The Cubs need pitching, and who’s to say Chatwood won’t be the next guy to step up?

Giving Chatwood an everyday role in the bullpen may very well not work either, that’s the beauty of it all, is that you never know until you try. The 51.7 percent groundball rate tells you he will keep it in the park for the most part, which is valuable during Wrigley summers.

Chatwood’s time with the Cubs has been, fair to say, a mixed bag of results. When he’s not walking hitters, he usually holds it together. Boy, when the walks start, the train ultimately falls off the tracks. Earlier this year, he pitched six scoreless innings in a spot start against the Diamondbacks, giving up just two hits.

Next. Pressure should be on Theo Epstein. dark

Chatwood can serve a vital role on the Cubs, and now it’s up to the Cubs’ to give him the best chance to succeed. After all, 98 mph sinking fastballs don’t grow on trees.