This past offseason, the Cubs’ big splash was the signing of Yu Darvish. A much more pencil dive-esque splash was made when they signed former Colorado Rockies pitcher Tyler Chatwood (pictured above).
Though not a household name, the 28-year-old Chatwood has been a more-than-serviceable arm over the past couple of seasons.
Seeing as he pitched half of his games at Coors Field, it’s tough to look at his stats as a whole. I’m sure casual Cubbies fans weren’t overly excited when they saw his 8-15 record and 4.69 ERA last year. Perhaps they were excited if they looked a bit deeper and saw his home/road splits. But should they be?
He’s posted a whopping 6.07 ERA at Coors, but luckily for him, he won’t have to worry about pitching there more than once per season going forward.
However, on the road he was elite, at least when looking at traditional stats. His 2.57 ERA over the past two years is sixth best among 94 qualified pitchers. Opponents also hit a measly .193 against him on the road, which is good for second best over that time behind Max Scherzer.
With that in mind, some folks may expect Chatwood to be road-Chatwood all the time now. He doesn’t have to pitch at Coors Field, so why not?
The thing is, road-Chatwood was also lucky-AF-Chatwood, as the kids would say.
His .222 batting average on balls in play on the road was tops in the majors. This is certainly lucky, but it’s actually ungodly when you consider the fact that he’s a ground ball pitcher.
He ranked 4th in GB% at 57.6% on the road since 2016. Ground ball pitchers can generally expect higher BABIPs than fly ball pitchers because grounders can squeak through for hits whereas fly balls, if they stay in the yard, are generally caught.
Of the 17 pitchers with a GB% of 50% or higher, 11 had BABIPs of .300 or higher and everyone had a number of at least .267 or higher…except for Chatwood and his .222. His grounders found the gloves of Rockies infielders like heat-seeking missiles.
With that said, it shouldn’t be surprising that his ERA-FIP difference of -1.66 was the highest, aka the luckiest, in the majors. While that road ERA of his was 6th best of 94, his xFIP of 4.40 was a rather pedestrian 54th of 94.
What is perhaps more alarming is his low strikeout rate and high walk rate. Since returning from Tommy John surgery, BB/9 rate — home and road — is 4.33, the worst in the major leagues. While the altitude may impact the movement on his pitches, he’s been wild regardless of where he’s pitching. The number is a tad worse on the road, in fact, at 4.35. Factor in his low strikeout numbers and he has one of the worst K/BB ratios in the bigs.
To put it in perspective, elite pitchers can strike out five guys or more per every walk they issue. Solid starters can aim for three or four, while almost everyone is over two. Tyler Chatwood, however, has just a 1.61 over the past two seasons.
Adding a ground ball pitcher to their arsenal was a wise move for the Cubs, especially considering their terrific infield defense. However, don’t expect Chatwood to pitch to his gaudy road numbers again, as there is almost guaranteed to be regression.
Today, Chatwood debuts as a road favorite in Cincinnati, with the line between -145 and -155 around the market. Last year, Reds hitters posted just the 25th-highest ground ball percentage in the league, so they aren’t exactly playing into Chatwood’s hand.
All stats via Fangraphs