Why Is Tyler Chatwood Such a Hot Commodity?

The Colorado Rockies' right-hander is reportedly a popular free-agent target for a number of teams. What makes the relatively obscure starter so appealing?

On the surface, a record of 8-15 and an ERA of 4.69 would not seem like the numbers of a pitcher who general managers around baseball would be trying to get their hands on. But here we are, in late November, and former Colorado Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood is a hot free-agent commodity at the moment.

Why would this be? After all, 15 losses and an ERA of 4.69 are not the hallmarks of an effective hurler. But as with just about everything in baseball, some of Chatwood's peripherals tell a better story.

Digging Into the Numbers

First, there is his age. He'll turn 28 next month, which is on the younger side for a MLB free agent. Anytime a team can get a free-agent pitcher under 30 years old, there is always going to be some degree of interest, even if that pitcher, at times, has looked like hot garbage.

But with Chatwood, there is talent there. Unfortunately for him, he has had to pitch half his games at Coors Field, a brutal place for pitchers. While taking a Rockies pitcher out of Colorado has not always worked out (see: Ubaldo Jimenez), there is reason to believe Chatwood's numbers would improve dramatically by not pitching in Coors Field as much.

Overall, Chatwood walked 12.2% of hitters faced and struck out 19.0% with a ground-ball rate of 58.1%. Among pitchers with at least 140 innings last year, that ground-ball rate ranked fifth in baseball. He's a ground-ball specialist, but he struggled with walks, posting the second-highest walk rate in baseball.

On the Road Again

That's not good. But when you look at his home/road splits, you see two distinctly different pitchers.

Home 11.9% 18.6% 1.68 6.01 .299 .381 1.28
Road 12.5% 19.4% 1.23 3.49 .197 .297 1.16

While Chatwood's high walk rate was actually a bit worse on the road (no doubt a disturbing number), he was far more effective at allowing fewer hits and home runs away from home. He gave up a .695 OPS on the road last season, and it is those splits that teams are looking at when considering Chatwood for their rotations in 2018.

And this isn't a one-year trend. In 2016, he went 12-9 with a 3.87 ERA overall in 27 starts, but his home/road splits were extreme. He went 4-8 with a 6.12 ERA, 1.64 WHIP and .303 batting average against at Coors, but on the road, he was 8-1 with a 1.69 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and .190 batting average against.

Moving Forward

Unlike fellow mid-range starters Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, Chatwood was not given a qualifying offer, meaning a team that wants him will not have to give up draft picks as a penalty for signing him. That makes him even more attractive and puts him in line to receive a multi-year deal from one of the many pitching-needy teams in baseball.

Chatwood may not be the bargain signing that his overall numbers would otherwise indicate. There are a number of suitors for him, all of whom are hoping those road numbers will translate into season-long numbers away from the mile high air in Denver. With so many teams in need of rotation help, Chatwood is going to be a valuable signing for someone.