Cubs first-year right-hander Tyler Chatwood was a part of my Spring Training watch list. An outline of pitchers that figured to excel with a change of teams and venues. Chatwood is back in the rotation after a short stint in the bullpen replacing scheduled starter Mike Montgomery, who went on the disabled list Friday with left shoulder inflammation. National League Preview and Free Pick: Pirates vs Cubs.
Matchup: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates
Time and Date: 7:05 PM ET, Saturday, August 18, 2018
Projected Starting Pitchers: Cubs RH Tyler Chatwood (4-5, 5.06 ERA) and Pirates RH Joe Musgrove (4-7, 3.49)
Line: (956) Pittsburgh Pirates -125, 8.5
Venue: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TV Broadcast: WGN (Chicago), AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh
Chatwood was a dispensable rotation piece when the Cubs traded for Cole Hamels at the end of July. The move to the bullpen and the addition of Hamels has taken some of what appeared to be a pressure packed season for the 28-year old Chatwood. His last appearance out of the pen was arguably his best three innings of the season. The righty tossed three scoreless innings in which he surrendered three hit while walking two and striking out a pair. Due to injury and Chatwood’s latest success he gets the start tonight versus the Pirates.
Chicago skipper Joe Maddon liked what he saw. “I just thought that he really relaxed in that last inning yesterday,” Maddon told MLB.com. “Everything was working. He was more fluid. He hit 95 on the gun. The curveball was a strike. He was throwing the ball where he wanted to.”
This comes after Maddon said before Friday’s game that he wasn’t entirely sure what Chatwood’s role in the bullpen would be. Over 19 starts, Chatwood had walked 85 batters in 94 innings. Maddon and the Cubs have a plethora of options to fill the starting rotation including a return of injured Yu Darvish. According to the Chicago Tribune Darvish is slated to begin his rehab assignment this Sunday. Darvish (right triceps tendinitis) has been sidelined since May 20. He threw about 55 pitches during a three-inning simulated game at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, and told Maddon on Thursday that he felt ready to begin his rehab stint.
And while there isn’t a better situation for Chatwood to showcase his newly acquired appreciation for being a big league starter, especially in a town and for a team that is now expected to win rather than lose, hoping that the Cubs righty has regained his best form is not fiscally wise. Today’s opponent, the Pittsburgh Pirates, are currently in a major league slump at the plate. The Bucs have lost five straight and have been shutout in two straight. Furthermore it is easy to paint a rosy picture concerning the progress of Chatwood since being removed from the rotation but his Achilles, command, is an issue that isn’t all mental, but more technical.
Finally Chatwood sported a 3.86 ERA his first 12 starts with the Cubs but during that first month-plus of starts he wasn’t pitching like a veteran with a 3.86 ERA. His true measure of success, or lack thereof, was his 6.14 SIERA. Despite the attractive ERA the former Colorado Rockies right-hander was walking 20 percent of batters faced and striking out just nineteen. In addition Chatwood was getting ahead of hitters at a small 51 percent first-strike rate and registering just seven percent swinging strikes.
Joe Musgrove, who has a 2.70 ERA over his past seven starts, opposes Chatwood and the Cubbies. Musgrove has completed seven innings in five of his last seven starts while posting a 2.70 ERA during that stretch. The result of Musgrove’s work has seen the Pirates earn wins in only three of those starts.
Musgrove comes off a quality start against the San Francisco Giants this past Sunday surrendering three earned runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out six. Across 13 starts spanning 80 innings pitched, Musgrove can be described best with one word, unspectacular. His 3.49 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.98 K/9, and 2.25 BB/9 has been a semi-success due to his 0.68 HR/9 and 7.3% HR/FB). Musgrove’s xFIP rests at 4.30 and his SIERA is a satisfactory 4.35.
Also Musgrove has had also been successful pitching at spacious PNC Park which mitigates fly ball tendencies. But one can’t simply ignore his career HR/FB of 13.1% and 1.21 career HR/9. Musgrove’s remaining starts in 2018 figure to offer negative regression with his home run per nine innings ratio increasing dramatically. Consequently that begins today with a 10 m.p.h. wind blowing out to the PNC right-field bleachers.
The National League Free Pick is a play OVER the TOTAL of 8.5 runs in Pittsburgh tonight
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National League Preview and Free Pick: Pirates vs Cubs