When the Colorado Rockies dealt Chris Iannetta to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in November of 2011 for Tyler Chatwood, the move didn’t exactly inspire a great deal of excitement in most Rockies fans.
Iannetta was coming off a 2011 season that saw him hit 14 homers in less than 450 at-bats while getting on base at a .370 clip as the Rockies starting catcher. Chatwood, on the other hand, had just completed his first year in the majors, and the numbers were far from pretty. In 25 starts, He went 6-11 with a 4.75 ERA, and surrendered 166 hits and 14 home runs in just 142 innings.
Chatwood also struggled to command his pitches and strike out major league hitters, with just 74 strikeouts to 71 walks. Despite the fact that he reached the big leagues at just 21-years old, there was little to indicate that he had a bright future ahead of him.
Chatwood’s first season with Colorado did little to prove the doubters wrong, as his ERA rose to 5.43 in 2012 while he bounced between the Rockies’ bullpen and their Triple A team. He didn’t crack the starting rotation until August, and he continued to struggle once he got there, walking multiple hitters in nine of his 12 starts.
At the start of the 2013 season, Chatwood didn’t make the Rockies opening day roster despite the many question marks in their pitching staff. His first three starts of the season were for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in Triple-A before being brought up in late April. His first major league start of the year came at home against the Atlanta Braves, and he allowed five runs (four earned) in six innings.
Since that time however, Chatwood has had some of the best success of his major league career. In four starts and 23.2 innings since his start against the Braves, he has only allowed three runs and six walks while striking out 23 hitters.
The result is an ERA that currently sits at 2.12, more than a full point lower than the next best Rockies starter, Jorge De La Rosa at 3.16. Chatwood has 26 strikeouts to just eight unintentional walks on the season, highlighted by a 10-strikeout performance in his last start against the Houston Astros. His BABIP of .337 also indicates that he is not getting by on luck; if anything, he has been slightly unlucky.
Now, it should go without saying that 23.2 innings is about as small as small sample sizes get. It’s also worth mentioning that two of Chatwood’s four starts came against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the aforementioned Astros, two teams that are struggling to do much of anything on offense this year. It still remains to be seen whether these starts are an indicator of the future or an unsustainable outlier for him.
The biggest determining factor for Chatwood will be his continued ability to pound the strike zone. He has a live arm, with a fastball that can reach 95 mph and a hard overhand curveball that can freeze hitters. If he can get ahead and put hitters in counts where they have to protect the plate, he will most likely continue to be the best pitcher on the Rockies.
If nothing else, Chatwood has the potential to become the Rockies’ best pitcher. It may not be saying a ton, but it’s a lot better than what people were saying about him back on Opening Day.