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Tyler Chatwood had a conflicting run with the Rockies

Chatwood was good, bad, and injured in his 5 years with the Rockies

The Tyler Chatwood era in Colorado officially came to an end last month when Chatwood landed a three-year, $38 million deal with the Cubs. In Chatwood, the Cubs get a solid back of the rotation guy. Meanwhile, the Rockies lose one of the last pitching holdovers from the Dan O’Dowd regime, and one of the last starters to make his mark before the new, young guns took their places.

Tyler’s Denver story began prior to the 2012 season, when the Rockies acquired the young righty from the Angels in exchange for Chris Iannetta. Chatwood started the season coming out of the bullpen, then moved into the rotation. 2013 stands out as Chatwood’s best year by ERA+ (142), though he missed some time that summer with soreness and inflammation in his pitching elbow. Those elbow troubles would return the next year, leading him to undergo Tommy John surgery. That procedure stole nearly two full seasons in the middle of his time in purple. The Rockies’ cautious recovery timeline paid off with two above-average seasons by ERA+ in 2016 (125) and 2017 (107), though he spent part of 2017 again on the DL and back in the bullpen.

The Chat-good

Here are Chatwood’s ten best appearances with the Rockies, according to B-Ref game score. See if you can spot the theme.

Chatwood’s Top Career Games

Date Game Result IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP Pitches Game Score
Date Game Result IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP Pitches Game Score
4/15/2017 COL @ SFG W,5-0 9 2 0 0 1 4 0 0 105 86
9/28/2016 COL @ SFG W,2-0 8 3 0 0 2 9 0 0 102 83
5/4/2016 COL @ SDP W,2-0 8 3 0 0 1 7 0 0 99 82
4/17/2016 COL @ CHC W,2-0 7 2 0 0 1 7 0 0 100 79
5/24/2017 COL @ PHI W,7-2 7 1 0 0 4 8 0 0 112 79
6/6/2016 COL @ LAD W,6-1 8 1 1 1 4 5 0 1 100 77
6/3/2017 COL @ SDP W,10-1 8 4 1 1 1 8 1 0 114 77
4/18/2014 COL vs. PHI W,12-1 7 2 1 0 1 6 0 0 88 76
7/13/2013 COL @ LAD L,0-1 8 4 1 1 2 4 0 1 98 72
5/7/2017 COL vs. ARI W,5-2 7 2 1 1 3 5 0 0 95 71

Tyler Chatwood earned a reputation as a much better pitcher on the road than at home, even by calls-Coors-Field-home standards. All of Chatwood’s classic appearances, including his spectacular shutout this past April, took place on the road. In that outing, Chatwood allowed two hits and a walk while getting weak contact. (His other complete game was an 8-inning, 1-0 loss in Los Angeles in 2013.)

The weak contact was a big key to Chatwood’s success – in 2017, among pitchers with more than 140 innings pitched, Chatwood ranked 5th in GB% at 58.1%. Over his career, his GB% sits at 54.4%. When considering the defense behind him, pitching to contact was a recipe for success on the road. In his career, Chatwood has managed a road batting average against of only .238, and a road BABIP of .272. In 2016 and 2017, those road numbers were even better.

The Chat-bad

I’ll spare you the table of Chatwood’s worst starts – Chatwood was bad at Coors Field. Six of his bottom ten outings by B-Ref game score happened on his home mound. While rising stars such as Jon Gray have shown that it’s possible to work around Coors Field’s thin skies and cavernous outfield, Chatwood’s pitch-to-contact approach that worked so well on the road led to issues at home. Among his 44 starts at Coors Field, only 6 times did Chatwood manage to throw 7 complete innings. Only 14 of his starts at home were quality starts. His career ERA at home (5.25) is significantly worse than on the road (3.31), and none stands out quite like his (overall stellar) 2016 campaign. In that year, Chatwood managed a 1.69 ERA away from Coors, compared with a 6.12 ERA at home. Fans will likely remember that inconsistency.

When he was on the field, Chatwood was a consistent contributor, but staying on the field was a big issue. Every player plays hurt to some extent, and the injuries for Chatwood began even before reaching the major league level. Chatwood’s first Tommy John surgery took place while the pitcher was in high school, and his right elbow would start giving him problems again during the 2013 season. Right arm soreness and right elbow inflammation took away a few starts that year, with the latter incidence landing him on the 15-day DL. That offseason, Chatwood underwent surgery to remove some bone chips from the elbow, but that didn’t stop him from needing another Tommy John procedure, which would rob him of the majority of two seasons in the middle of his career. Thankfully, after returning from his second Tommy John surgery, those elbow issues have subsided.

Of course, Chatwood has also missed time due to other injuries not related to the pitching elbow. A hamstring strain in 2014 (prior to the TJ surgery) landed him on the DL. Since returning from TJ, Chatwood also suffered from back issues in late 2016 and a strained calf in 2017. Those injuries, while not as severe, have helped prevent Chatwood from ever throwing more than 160 innings in a single season.

The Chat-clusion

What the Rockies are losing this offseason in Chatwood is a guy who was a good option on a weak team. When the rotation finally came together in 2017, Chatwood was the one pushed into the bullpen, and that says as much about Chatwood as it does about the rest of the rotation.

Chatty is a back-of-the-rotation starter on a typical team. If his health problems are a thing of the past, and if Wrigley Field proves to be friendlier confines than Coors has been to him, Chatty should fit in nicely with the Cubs. And if he’d been a little more consistent at Coors and a little more healthy, Rockies fans would come away with fonder memories of him. As it stands, though, those bright spots will still shine brightly for years to come.