The Toronto Blue Jays had one of the top bullpens in all of baseball just over a month ago, but it now appears that the relief pitching corps may be starting to fade from all the over usage from earlier in the season. With multiple games lost in the late innings, right-hander Tyler Chatwood is one pitcher who is in some sort of funk right now that has seen his stellar start to the season begin to slip away.
Signed by the Blue Jays on a one-year contract this past off-season, Chatwood came into Jays training camp with experience as both a starter and a reliever. The organization decided it would be best to keep him in the bullpen, using him in the later innings and the high-pressure situations.
The Chatwood signing wasn’t met with the biggest pomp and circumstance, mostly because he was coming off a rough three-year stretch with the Chicago Cubs that saw him lead the league in walks back in 2018 and only generating a 1.1 bWAR in both a starting and relief role. The move was also overshadowed by the Kirby Yates deal, as it was announced a day prior to Chatwood’s agreement with the Blue Jays.
Nevertheless, Ross Atkins and co. decided to take a chance on the veteran pitcher and through the first 1.5 months of the 2021 season, he has performed well. Chatwood did miss a small stretch of games when he was on the injured list, but through his first 16 games this year, the California native boasted a 0.53 ERA with five walks and 24 strikeouts and was a key component to the Jays early success in the bullpen. He was predominantly being used in the seventh and eighth innings and just throwing well in his new role with the Jays.
Blue Jays relief pitcher Tyler Chatwood has struggled over his past four outings, seeing his ERA balloon over the 5.00 mark while issuing 11 walks in the same time span. Are hitters starting to figure him out or is he in his own head?
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That all changed on May 23, when Chatwood struggled against the Tampa Bay Rays and was pulled by Charlie Montoyo after going only 0.2 innings but surrendered two walks and four earned runs, earning the loss on the night and leaving the game visibly upset with Montoyo’s decision. Since that outing, Chatwood has produced one quality appearance mixed in with two ugly outings, seeing his ERA climb to 5.31 while allowing nine walks in the past four games (14 on the season) and giving up 11 earned runs in the same time frame.
I’m not sure if Chatwood has changed something in his delivery or he’s starting to tip pitches, but last night’s outing was troublesome because he didn’t give up a single free pass yet the Houston Astros were all over him to the tune of six hits leading to one home run and five earned runs without recording a single out. Chatwood wasn’t on his game last night, but the Astros were just squaring him up so well and it wasn’t the walks that came back to bite him like in his previous rough outings.
Another possibility could be something more on the mental side of the game, as he hasn’t really been the same since he left the May 23 game all pissed off that he couldn’t finish the outing. A few tough outings strung together might be playing on his mind and affecting how he’s pitching. Something to think about, as he was pitching well before he left that Ray’s appearance upset with Montoyo.
Whatever the problem is, Chatwood and pitching coach Pete Walker are going to have to go back to the drawing board and figure out something that can help the relief pitcher find his groove that fans saw within the first month and a half, similar to what just happened with teammate Ross Stripling.
While many Blue Jays fans were upset with his performance on social media last night, when Tyler Chatwood is throwing well, he is an asset to the team, as evident with his below 1.00 ERA through 16 appearances to begin the year. He’ll now have to go back to the drawing board and see if he can make adjustments, as the club does not have a lot of depth behind him in terms of healthy relief pitchers right now and a struggling Tyler Chatwood will be bad news for the Blue Jays if the rough outings keep piling up.