Haha, 2020 is quite the year, isn’t it? What a wonderful time to be alive. Hahahaha. You can do this Coolwhip, hold it together man. So I wrote nearly all of this before his Thursday start against the Royals. Or as I will call it, “the Night that the Gates of Hell Overfloweth with Wickedness and Malice.” Life was different then, pitchers had a roll, Trent Grisham was a world-beater, Mike Trout had a baby, and life made sense. Then it happened. Sigh… we’ll proceed ahead with a dose of sobriety as everyone can have off nights (gulp), let’s dive in!

Tyler Chatwood is filthy (I swear). Just like you want a pitcher to be. And there’s something different about him. The movement on his pitches is crisp AF and that cutter’s late movement gets the mood going. So far in 2020, he has 19 Ks through 2 starts and only 4 BBs. This is not the same Chatwood that has tormented us before with command issues. He’s pitching deeper into games and getting more swinging strikes than ever at an absurd 17.4% clip, twice as much as his career mark last year. What gives?

Career 6.59 4.67 0.90 4.33 1.50 .258 4.62
2019 8.69 4.34 0.94 3.76 1.33 .230 4.28
2020 13.50 2.84 0.00 0.71 0.79 .140 0.93

There’s a spike in his K-rate in 2019 and now another spike in his first couple starts of 2020 along with a boost in his command. Where are these improvements coming from?

2019 1st Half 7.20 5.20 1.40 4.40 1.51 .256 5.50
2019 2nd Half 10.80 3.13 0.28 2.84 1.07 .198 2.55

In the 2nd Half of 2019, Chatwood did something different to drastically improve his results. His K-rate jumped by 3+, dropped his walk-rate (his biggest worst issue) by 2+, nearly erased his HR-rate, and trimmed his ratios by a third. What did Chatwood change then? After review, it’s not an increase in velocity as that has stayed fairly consistent. Let’s look at his pitch mix.

2019 31.6% 39.6% 10.2% 11.3% 7.3%
2020 7.4% 42.4% 29.6% 15.6% 4.9%

So he’s substantially dropped throwing the fastball, bumped up the sinker some, and tripled his use of the cutter. For those of you who like charts: HERE is his dropping use of the fastball over the last year, HERE is the gradual increase of the sinker, and HERE is the big spike in cutter this year. So why the huge spike with his cutter? what did he discover with it? Well, I saw this from Jordan Bastian on twitter:

Starting in the 2nd half of last year, Chatwood has been tinkering with his grip and how he throws the cutter. Now, he’s retooled it get more horizontal break AND vertical drop. As you see HERE, starting in July you see the drop is increasing. It now moves off the table with more spin. This new found movement has produced incredible results so far when played off the movement of his sinker:

Whiff% 20.0% 41.7% 50.0% 61.1% 55.6% 59.1%

So that’s the good news, as nothing ever seems to work out perfectly. The bad news, as it appears yet again, 2020 is a cruel mistress that fancies herself the slayer of dreams and a militant succubus that enjoys torturing us by denying us the ability to have our cake and eat it too. I have Chatwood on nearly all my rosters, imagine my horror as I saw him get knocked around by Kansas City (8 runs on 11 hits in less than 3 innings). I haven’t seen a shelling by Royals that bad since the sinking of the Spanish Armada. Aye, Dios Mio!

The silver lining: “bad” Chatwood of years past had trouble finding the strike zone. Thursday night he didn’t look to have his stuff — but no walks. The cutter didn’t bite and he was hanging breakers in the zone. I have to say I’m a little squeamish for his next start vs Cleveland. Yet, I believe it’s just a bump in the road and I’m still on board going forward. The Royals had insanely high BABIP of .417 and nearly everyone on base scored. This likely presents an opportunity to buy-low coming off such a beating. All last year he allowed only a 2.9% barrel-rate that put him in the top 2% of pitchers. His walk rate is the lowest its ever been, and though I don’t expect a 40% K-rate to continue I think he could still maintain one north of 20% like last year and probably closer to 25%, still a career-best and be a mid-3 ERA pitcher. That has value in this crazy year and could cost almost nothing.