Chicago Cubs: Tyler Chatwood is going to be sneaky good

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood (32) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning on Sunday, April 21, 2019 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Ill. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood (32) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning on Sunday, April 21, 2019 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Ill. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images) /
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Tyler Chatwood has been a roller coaster of Carlos Marmol proportions since he signed with the Chicago Cubs. This year, he has an opportunity to be the team’s most important reliever.

When Tyler Chatwood signed with the Chicago Cubs for 3 years, $38M the rationale for the deal was pretty clear-cut. Chatwood had succeeded in the impossible arena of Coors Field by posting ridiculous ground ball rates. If he could pitch at elevation, then Chatwood would be really good at sea level in Chicago.

Chatwood went out in 2018 and set records, just not the expected ones as he “led” the league with an absurd 19.6% walk rate. As someone who has run double-digit walk rates for most of his career, Chatwood would never be mistaken for a control artist but his starts usually ended with the Cubs taxing their bullpen.

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2019 saw Chatwood relegated to bullpen duty where he actually performed well. In 54 innings as a reliever, he posted a 3.67 ERA, 54% ground ball rate which helped hold hitters to a .223/.316/.350 line.

Chatwood was able to increase his GB rate by 9 points as a reliever. Statcast was a big fan of Chatwood’s ability to induce weak contact as his Barrels/PA% was third-best among all qualified pitchers at a minuscule 1.9%.

Another reason to get excited about Chatwood in the bullpen is he can bring some serious heat. Chatwood recorded an average fastball velocity at 96.1 and that includes the fact that he started five games. Consider his velocity in his last three outings where he was averaging 97 and 98 MPH on his heater.

Aside from Craig Kimbrel closing, the entire Cubs bullpen is completely unsettled. Chatwood could serve in a multi-inning capacity given his history as a starter or he could lock down one of the setup roles.

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The Tyler Chatwood contract hasn’t gone exactly as the Cubs or he would have wanted. That being said, Chatwood has a chance to have a major impact in the Cubs 2020 bullpen bringing velocity and effectiveness the rest of their bullpen has lacked in recent years.