Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.
No. 9: Tyler Chatwood (2.2 rWAR)
Whether Tyler Chatwood was a good pitcher in 2017 or not depends on how you squint. In 2016, Chatwood had a stellar road ERA of 1.69 in his first year back from his second Tommy John surgery. But the underlying 2016 road peripherals, where he walked 36 batters in 80 innings while striking out just 61, did not suggest a budding Greg Maddux. When looking at his 2017 efforts, he still posted a decent 3.49 road ERA. However, the very act of squinting is an attempt to focus on one thing which also implies the inability to see anything that you aren’t directly looking at. Things such as being second in the National League in walks allowed, third in the National League in wild pitches, and first in the National League in losses.
Now, there have been many pitchers who have been successful even while walking people or throwing wild pitches. Generally, they are great at something else, such as striking out batters. Chatwood’s forte was generating groundballs, netting 1.40 per flyball in front of the a stellar Rockies infield defense. However, where those groundballs found infielders’ mitts on the road, to the tune of 6.4 hits per nine innings, those grounders turned into Texas Leaguer base hits at Coors Field, climbing to 10.4 hits per nine. All the other rate stats—walks per nine, strikeouts per nine, even home runs per nine—were virtually identical, no matter where Chatwood pitched. None of those rate stats were all that hot either as Chatwood gave up a career high home runs and walks per nine innings. For a bit of context, there was a point in June when Jordan Lyles, much lamented for hanging on to a roster spot, had better peripherals than Chatwood. Only Chatwood’s good September (more squinting), when he had a 3.12 ERA over 26 innings, helped his overall line.
On the loss aspect, Chatwood’s bugaboo, especially at Coors Field, was the big inning that would often occur during his second or third time through the order. Even including his road stats from 2017, his ERA in the first three innings was a solid 3.73, but jumped to a decision-killer 6.14 ERA in innings four through six. That’s why Chatwood averaged a shade under 5 and a half innings for his twenty five starts. As apt as Bud Black was in giving starters the early hook, that sweet spot between Chatwood going five innings for the win or getting steamrolled for a loss usually occurred too quick for even Black to stop the snowball.
The uncertainty of whether Chatwood was good or not was reflected in his season. At varying times he was either the veteran leader of a young staff, then bullpen fodder as better pitchers returned to health, then potential postseason starter as the rookies tired late in the year. As we near the end of the Ranking the Rockies series, there are quite a few pitchers who had better 2017 seasons than Chatwood. In Rockies rotations of the recent past, Chatwood’s 2017 performance might’ve been enough where, like with Lyles for a time, fans could squint and see a good pitcher in the future. But the Rockies have increased their threshhold for what they think is good and Chatwood no longer quite fits that perception.
Tyler Chatwood is a free agent. There’s a slight chance the Rockies may want him for depth purposes, but he would probably get a stronger contract from another team. Though the combination of short starts plus the uncertainty of pitchers who have had two Tommy John surgeries may dampen his market, but there’s enough there where someone will likely take a peek at him. I’d guess a contract in the 1 year, $9 million range to a 3 year, $20 million range is possible. If not, we know the Padres love ex-Rockies pitchers. Hopefully he lands with a team a good defense, a quick hook, and likes rollercoasters.