CHICAGO -- The major league leader in giving up walks was at it again on Tuesday as Chicago Cubs right-hander Tyler Chatwood continues to confound his new team and fan base. Leaving Coors Field after last season was supposed to lead to good things for him, but instead it has seen him deliver a bevy of free passes for the opposition, including six more in a 10-1 blowout loss to the Cleveland Indians.
"Definitely frustrating," Chatwood said after the game Tuesday night. "One at-bat I'll feel really good, then the next one I feel like I'm fighting myself."
The same goes from start to start. Chatwood was coming off a two-walk, one-run performance against the high-scoring Braves but could not follow it up with another good one. It has been maddening to watch and probably to manage.
"He has a busy delivery," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's kind of busy what he does with his hands. It's something he's done for a while. It's not like you can just change it easily because that's how his arm works. That's how his body works. You saw it the other day, when it's on time how good it can be. When it's out of sorts a bit, all of a sudden, it becomes shotgun."
Just how bad is Chatwood's control these days? He has walked 40 in 45⅔ innings, and according to ESPN Stats & Information research, he's the first Cub since Carlos Zambrano in 2007 to issue five or more walks in at least six starts -- and we haven't even hit Memorial Day yet. In fact, no other pitcher in baseball this season has more than three starts of five or more walks this year. He's lapping the field.
"I'm trying to force pitches rather than just letting it happen," Chatwood said. "Little mechanical thing. I'm drifting down the mound. I don't know where I've created that bad habit. ... Last time I was able to stay into rhythm. Tonight I was battling rushing rather than staying back. It's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."
Time will tell if Chatwood can figure it out, considering he's in the first year of a three-year deal worth $38 million. Inconsistent teammate Yu Darvish is in the first year of his contract as well, a deal that's worth $126 million. Lefty Jose Quintana is signed through 2020. All are talented but all have been shaky so far.
Perhaps the brakes should be applied to all the Manny Machado talk and focus should instead be on what's important: starting pitching. That's what has prevented the Cubs from going on a run this season -- not some offensive problems which pop up from time to time. It's not that the rotation is awful -- the Cubs wouldn't be five games over .500 if it were -- but a win streak will always be an arm's length away if there is so much inconsistency on the mound. That has been proven over time.
For now, Maddon remains in Chatwood's corner as he'll take his next start in five days.
"Man, that's good stuff," Maddon said of the movement on Chatwood's pitches. "We just have to get it in the zone ... I have a lot of faith. I know we're going to reap the rewards, the benefits, as he figures this thing out."