The Chicago Cubs made an early splash last offseason by signing right-handed pitcher Tyler Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million deal. On the surface, this looked like a steal by Theo Epstein’s front office. Fans of the Cubs were racing to do World Series betting with ocean sports at the time of the signing. After all, this was a hurler that had spent virtually his entire big-league career in Colorado, and apparently had shown potential to be the next Charlie Morton.
Despite being an intriguing commodity in free agency, he also had plenty to prove in the way of harnessing his control. Nearly three months into his tenure with the Cubs, he’s still trying to figure things out. Chatwood has at least found a way to greatly outperform his peripherals, though.
The following tweet was sent out prior to him finishing his outing on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the stat speaks for itself.
Tyler Chatwood's 62 walks this season (4 so far today) are more than any Cubs pitcher had last season.
Jon Lester had the most with 60. pic.twitter.com/EfxXcq4v8z
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 19, 2018
Chatwood finished his start with five walks (63 total for the season), which was the ninth time in 14 outings that he’s handed out at least five free passes. Jose Quintana has allowed the second-most walks on the club, but he’s all the way down at 35.
If we take a peek at Chatwood’s season-long stats, his strikeout and walk numbers are in a tight race with one another. Through 68.1 innings of work. the right-hander has struck out 64 hitters (20.3% rate) while allowing 63 walks (20.0% rate).
The most incredible part of it all is that he’s the current owner of a 3.95 ERA. He’s been helped by a .283 BABIP allowed and 78.2% strand rate, but his 5.94 SIERA also warns us that things could come crashing down at any moment if he doesn’t make some changes.
Since 2002, there have only been two starting pitchers to post an ERA of 4.00 or lower with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.00 or worse in 100-plus innings. Those hurlers were Denny Stark of the Colorado Rockies in 2002 and Noah Lowry of the San Francisco Giants in 2007. This mostly happened because neither were big swing-and-miss guys — Stark posted a 11.6% strikeout and walk rate, while Lowry checked in at 12.5% for each category.
Recent history also tells us something has to give. The highest walk rate by a starting pitcher that qualified for the ERA title since 2002 was 13.1%, done by Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2008, Edinson Volquez in 2012, and Kazuhisa Ishii in 2004.
Chatwood is clearly in some uncharted territory at the moment, and how he navigates through it over the next few months is anyone’s guess right now.