The Concern is That We've Seen That Tyler Chatwood Before

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The Concern is That We’ve Seen That Tyler Chatwood Before

Chicago Cubs

There’s a lot of excusing you could do if you were inclined. He had a nearly three-weeks-long layoff between starts without any rehab games. He was coming back from an injury that problem created some bad habits. It was just one game. So on and so on.

But I think we should probably resist the instinct to make those excuses about Tyler Chatwood’s disastrous outing this time around for two reasons: (1) there’s barely a month left in the season so there isn’t time to be effing around with straightening guys out; and (2) we’ve seen that version of Chatwood before.

Taking those two points in order, I can dispatch with the first one pretty quickly. Each starting pitcher in the Cubs rotation might get about six more starts the rest of the way. It would be crazy to spend more than maybe ONE MORE of those starts on giving a guy a shot to straighten things out. That can’t be what these remaining games are about, even if it winds up being totally unfair to an individual player who might otherwise have been fine if given enough time. The Cubs have other options for the back of the rotation, and if they don’t think Chatwood is the best option to give them six strong innings in his next outing, then he shouldn’t get the ball. Period. It’s too late in the game for that.

As for the second reason I’m not keen on shrugging my shoulder’s at last night’s game is that we’ve seen Tyler Chatwood at his worst before, and it looked a whole lot like the guy we saw last night.

The Chatwood we saw in his first two starts was maxing out his nasty stuff and nice mix of pitches, while locating them very well at the edges of the zone, and moving up and down. It wasn’t just that he wasn’t walking guys, it was that he was commanding his pitches so well all over that batters had no chance.

The Chatwood we saw in his third start, as we discussed, was just missing his spots a bit more. He was in the strike zone aplenty, and an aggressive team made a whole lot of contact in front of a defense that didn’t make any plays. Chatwood didn’t look bad in that start.

Then he was scratched from his next outing, there was a period of time where it was unclear how bad his back injury was, then only after several days was he IL’d. He saw a back specialist. It never did clear up just how injured he was, or even what the real issue was.

Against that backdrop, seeing Chatwood look completely out of whack last night is all the more concerning. He’s always been a guy with complicated mechanics, which make him harder to hit, but also make it a lot harder for him to repeat and stay on point from outing to outing and even within a single outing. His rhythm looked totally disrupted last night, and you couldn’t even start to comment on his ability to command his pitches, because he couldn’t even control them half the time.

It was the Chatwood we saw throughout 2018. A guy who throws as many completely noncompetitive pitches as he does strikes. A guy who falls behind constantly, and then misses his spots in hitters counts and gets wrecked. A guy who walks himself into trouble. A guy who’s pitch location chart looks like this:

Chatwood’s manager thought some of what happened was because of the scope of the moment, following the layoff. From David Ross (via The Athletic): “It looked like he was amped up to be back out there. That’s something I’ve seen from him in the past. He just gets in a hurry, at times, trying to make that next pitch. Slowing him down, getting him back into game rhythm will be important.”

Chatwood, himself, wasn’t interested in making any excuses. He just wants to study what happened (The Athletic): “I’m not going to make any excuses — I just wasn’t good tonight. My stuff’s still all there. I’ll go back, watch the video, see what it is and make the adjustment.”

Because of the doubleheaders ahead, it’s possible Chatwood is going to get another start even if the Cubs were otherwise ready, after this outing, to bounce him back to the bullpen. Again, I’ll say: if Chatwood gets another start, it has to be because the Cubs have evaluated their options for that day, and believe he gives them the best chance. It cannot be because they want to afford him time to “make the adjustment.” That time no longer exists. If he gets the start because they’ve decided he’s the best option and in that start he looks good again? Well, that’s swell. But if he gets the start and looks like 2018 Chatwood again? The Cubs made an avoidable mistake.

Saturday’s doubleheader, notably, comes only four days after last night’s game, so if Chatwood or Jose Quintana (more on him later) get a start, they’d be doing so without the typical four days rest.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.