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How the Rockies can ensure Tyler Chatwood only pitches on the road

Tyler Chatwood has extreme home/road splits, so the Rockies should take advantage of it

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In Tyler Chatwood’s comment for the 2017 Baseball Prospectus Annual, I wrote that his extreme home/road splits can be read in a couple of ways. First, they aren’t likely to remain so extreme. And second, it’s dishonest to focus solely on how great he’s been on the road while ignoring the part about him being so bad at home. Regarding the first part, Chatwood has thrown 72 13 more innings in 2017, and he’s doing the extreme thing again. He has a 2.68 road ERA and a 7.03 home ERA. Regarding the second, how about not ignoring it and doing something about it.

The analyst of trends and precedent in me says that the numbers will get closer together the more Chatwood pitches. But since the start of 2016, Chatwood has posted a road ERA of 2.02 in 120 13 innings pitched. That’s the second best road split in baseball to Rich Hill’s negligibly better 2.01 road ERA. At the same time, Chatwood has a home ERA of 6.38 in 110 innings, which is the second worst home split in baseball after Ubaldo Jiménez. The samples aren’t all that small.

If we assume that the splits are less and less likely to meet somewhere in the middle, and if we acknowledge that we can’t honestly fawn over Chatwood’s road performance while ignoring the horror show he’s been at Coors Field, then it makes sense to enact some measures to take advantage of the split. It might be a good idea to re-jigger the rotation so that Chatwood only pitches on the road—to manage Chatwood outside of the box, as community member ColoradoRoxer put it in a Fan Post. Assuming Chatwood remains healthy and that he takes his turn every fifth game, he’d pitch 10 of his final 21 starts at home. Here’s how the Rockies can shake things up so that doesn’t happen.

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Things start out easy. Chatwood’s next start should come on Friday, June 9, against the Cubs in Chicago. It’s the second game of a seven game road trip, and he’s likely to pitch the final game of the trip on a normal schedule on June 14.

June 9 at Cubs

June 14 at Pittsburgh

Things get somewhat trickier afterward, but the Rockies wouldn’t have to do anything too complicated. Chatwood’s next scheduled start would come on June 20 at home against Arizona. Luckily, the Rockies are off on June 19. They can simply skip Chatwood’s start and have the rest of the rotation pitch on normal rest. After running through what would be a four-man rotation but on normal rest due to the off day, Chatwood can pitch on June 24 against the Dodgers at Dodger stadium and then again on June 30 at Arizona.

June 24 at Dodgers

June 30 at Arizona

After the Rockies finish their west coast road trip, things get a little tricky. They play 13 of their next 16 games at home, but the All-Star break is in the middle of it all, which would allow the Rockies to reset the rotation. Chatwood’s next scheduled start after June 30 would be July 5 at home against Cincinnati. In his stead, the Rockies could possibly call on a spot starter. That spot start doesn’t even need to come from the minors. With Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray, and Chad Bettis returning, Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, and Antonio Senzatela might end up either in the bullpen or Triple-A. They are more than capable of filling in as spot starters.

The Rockies start the second half of the season with a three-game series against the Mets in New York. That’s followed by a six-game home stand. Here, it’s best to start Chatwood in the second game against the Mets on July 16. That way, the Rockies five starts can go on normal rest for the first six games after the All-Star break. When Chatwood’s turn comes up again, it’s an off day. The Rockies can skip his start there but then schedule him to start the first and last games of the six-game road trip that follows, on July 24 at St. Louis and July 30 at Washington.

July 16 at Mets

July 24 at St. Louis

July 30 at Washington

August to September 6 is tough, as the Rockies play 22 of their 33 games at Coors Field. If Chatwood starts on July 30, he’d be scheduled to start on August 5 at home against the Phillies. On that day, it would probably be best to use the pitcher most capable of filling in, either from the bullpen or from Triple-A. On August 8, the Rockies begin a five game road trip that includes Cleveland and Miami. There is a day off tucked in there, so if the Rockies skip Chatwood at home on August 5, he can pitch the first and final game of the trip on regular rest. It would mean delaying the start of whoever is considered the fifth starter at that point.

August 8 at Cleveland

August 13 at Miami

For Chatwood’s next scheduled start on August 18, in the middle of a seven-game home stand, the Rockies can do essentially the same thing: have someone take his place, and then start him for the first and final games of the six-game road trip that commences on August 22.

August 22 at Kansas City

August 27 at Atlanta

On August 28, the Rockies begin a nine-game home stand. If Chatwood starts on August 27, then he would only have one scheduled start during it. It would be in September, which also happens to be the month when active rosters expand. It should be even easier at this point to replace Chatwood on September 2. It’s not uncommon for teams to go with a six-man rotation in September anyhow, and the Rockies have enough capable starters to go that direction. It would shield Chatwood from Coors Field and limit the innings of the rookies. This spot start would set Chatwood up to start two games during the subsequent seven-game road trip.

September 7 at Los Angeles Dodgers

September 12 at Arizona

After September 12, Chatwood would be set up to pitch at home on September 17, which he could skip, positioning him to start the first and last games of the team’s final regular season road trip.

September 19 at San Francisco

September 24 at San Diego

The Rockies finish up the season with six games at home. By the time his turn in the rotation comes around for the last time, he can simply become another arm available out of the bullpen.

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From a technical standpoint, all it would take for the Rockies to make Chatwood a start exclusively on the road would be a willing spot starter and some creative rotation juggling prior to road trips. Chatwood would end up with four or five fewer starts, but if that means him pitching less at Coors Field, maybe that’s not a bad thing. With this schedule, he’d still end up with 27 starts, which would match his workload from 2016.

It might be trickier in terms of personnel. It wouldn’t be hard to fill spot starts from the Rockies’ wealth of starting pitchers. But would Chatwood and the rest of the rotation be comfortable with the regular rotation shakeups? That’s an aspect of it that has to be considered. Luckily, finding an answer to that question might simply mean asking the players about it. And remember, the basis of this restructuring assumes a regular schedule of pitchers every fifth game. Rotations aren’t that stable, and shakeups might be a matter of necessity more than one of creativity.

Ultimately, I’m still not totally convinced Chatwood’s extreme splits are a bona fide Thing. But if they are, and there really is piling evidence that support it, then making Chatwood a road starter would be the sensible thing to do.