No reason to belabor the lede, let’s just get into things.
I’ve frequently spoken of Tyler Chatwood as a Little League pitcher, a guy whose busy delivery results in an utter lack of control than can actually serve him well at times. He ends up getting lots of called third strikes because batters just don’t expect him to throw that many good pitches in an at-bat. Of course, batters are usually right about him not throwing strikes, which is why he’s walked as many of them than he’s struck out.
What we saw from Chatwood Tuesday night, however, was a whole new level of blech. Already down 2-0, Chatwood walked (weird, right?) Christian Yelich to lead off the bottom of the 3rd. A subsequent throwing error on a pickoff allowed Yelich to move to second, which is what led to the cluster-you-know-what that followed.
Chatwood initially did his job with Lorenzo Cain, inducing a grounder to Javy Baez. The second baseman ranged to his right to field the ball, then jumped as if to throw to first before thinking better of it and firing to Kris Bryant at third to get Yelich in a rundown.
Bryant had to reach a little for the throw, giving Yelich a chance to head back to second. A toss to Addison Russell had Yelich going back to third, which is where the real fun started. Well, if you’re a Brewers fan.
Before we get to that, though, let’s get to what was going on around the play. Anthony Rizzo had trotted home to serve as backup for Willson Contreras in case the play made its way toward the plate, which left no one at first. Baez and Russell were on third, Bryant was at second, and Albert Almora Jr. eventually made his way to second as well.
As the play was initially unfolding, Chatwood went to third, where he took the throw from Russell only a few feet from the bag. I’m a terrible judge of distance, but he was in the cutout area, so we’re probably talking 85 feet from second. And he’s running down a guy who’s not only faster, but was about 25-30 feet ahead of him when he received Russell’s throw.
Now, Cain sees what’s going on and he heads for second, but not to take the base. He told reporters afterward that this was something they’d actually practiced in Kansas City when he was with the Royals, so he’s just trying to draw attention away from Yelich. It worked.
With no one on first base, Cain had all the time in the world to jog back while Chatwood inexplicably chose to chase Yelich all the way back to second base. At no point did he appear either willing or able to throw the ball, choosing instead to keep it in his mitt. This despite both Bryant and Jason Heyward, who was charging in from right at this point, gesturing vehemently for Chatwood to throw the ball.
Instead, the pitcher sort of coasted after the runner, eventually applying a tag to a man who was standing safely on second base. Even without its hand-wringing conclusion, the rundown was less than ideal. Javy’s initial throw was off, Bryant threw too early to Russell, no one was covering first.
But what the world was Chatwood thinking? I just…ugh. Here, watch for yourself. The second replay in the video below gives you a very clear picture of how Bryant and Heyward were calling for the throw (0:36 mark).
Oh, and I almost forgot the worst of the whole thing, which was Chatwood giving up Travis Shaw‘s second two-run double of the game. Good times.
When it comes to disappointing offseason acquisitions and throwing, Chatwood wasn’t the only Cubs pitcher making news Tuesday. Yu Darvish was out on the mound in Milwaukee for a bullpen session that went about as well as anyone could have hoped.
Not that you’d expect a negative appraisal, but the effusive praise from Joe Maddon and others seemed as genuine as the situation allowed.
“He threw really well, easy gas, great location, good spin on his breaking ball, very impressed,” Maddon told the media prior to the game. “The ball was coming out hot, and it was going right where he wanted to throw it. Good command in the ‘pen.
“That’s just a bullpen, but it was very encouraging to see him throw that easily and that well.”
This is one of those things that neither the Cubs nor Darvish want to push, though you have to wonder at least a little bit whether Chatwood’s continued issues put a little more pressure on all parties. Then again, it’d be very unwise to force anything given both Darvish’s past and future.
“Because I had a similar injury when I had Tommy John surgery with the ligament, I’m more careful and sensitive this time,” Darvish explained to reporters with the help of his interpreter. “I want to take the time and process things slowly. The MRI showed nothing. From the experience from the Tommy John surgery [in 2015], I have to take this [session] as a positive way going forward.”
Theo Epstein talked about how common it is for free agents to have a hard time finding their footing when they join a new team, which is really all he can say at this juncture. No word from Chris Gimenez, who caught Darvish during the session, though the pitcher did say that he feels support from Cubs fans.
If Darvish can come back from this to be the pitcher the Cubs thought they were getting, it’ll be a huge boon to the team in the second half. And it might take that long, as he’s certainly a couple weeks away from MLB action at the very least. Being pain-free is huge, but he’ll probably need a couple rehab starts before getting back onto the 25-man roster.
Bryant’s frustrated focus
Kris Bryant came into Tuesday’s game in Milwaukee on an 0-for-13 skid and proceeded to go 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Not the kind of performance we’re used to seeing from him and certainly not what he expects of himself.
“Sometimes it’s all about perspective,” Bryant told the media after the game. “My expectations are really high, and that’s the greatest and worst thing in the world. That’s how I look at it.”
“It’s a daily battle with all of us. You’re more likely to have a bad day than a good day in this game, and the sooner you realize that and learn from that, then the better you can be in the future. I have my temper tantrums, and I go in here and break a bat or whatever. I try to do it where no one sees me. Sometimes that’s a good thing, too. After that, it’s all about perspective.”
It’s actually kind of cool to hear that and to understand that he’s not just some robot whose demeanor never changes. It’s better to know that we’re talking about Kris Freaking Bryant, which means that this mini-slump figures to be ended in a big way here pretty shortly.
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Down on the Corner, John Fogerty/CCR – This is my son’s favorite song and we’ll be seeing it performed live tonight by the legend himself.