Mar 11, 2012; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) prior to the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

2012 Reds Spring Training: Chapman Zeroing in on Rotation Spot

When the news broke that Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman had his winter plans cancelled due to a sore throwing shoulder, the plans (in the mind of some) to convert him back in the role as a starter had hit a roadblock. Surely there would not be enough time during spring training to get him ready, would there?

Well, what ever plan the Reds devised for Chapman after he was scratched from an Arizona Fall League start has worked. The additional plans of sending him to winter ball were also scrapped, and it has all worked well I might add. He has been nothing short of spectacular since arriving in Goodyear. In fact, I will go so far as to say he’s been the best pitcher, period. Apologies to Logan Ondrusek, of course.

Out of that “downtime” emerged questions in regards to Chapman. Those questions were many, but most of the questions focused on three main issues surrounding the Cuban Missile.

Would there be a loss in velocity?

It’s no secret that you have to tone down when the shoulder tells you to take it easy. And the docs have a say in that as well. That being said, Chapman has shown any loss.

If you check out Chapman’s last start, you notice that the velocity isn’t the 100+ MPH we have grown accustomed to seeing, but throwing 97 and 98 presents a positive sign. In fact, he hit 98 multiple times. Just to bring this in perspective, for 2011, Chapman averaged 98.1 with his four-seam fastball according to PITCH f/x via Fangraphs. It can only get a little faster.

I don’t see no stinkin’ loss of velocity…

Would he be able to harness his control?

If you sacrifice velocity (which Chapman has not), you figure your control would be better because one theory suggests you’re more in control of your motion. Chapman has spkoen volumes on that…with his performances. Going into his start today, Chapman has issued only 2 (count ‘em, 2) free passes. On the other front, he has whiffed 12 opposing batters. I like a SO/BB ratio of 6.0.

I’d say he has pulled the reigns in somewhat, wouldn’t you?

Can he go five innings or more?

This is possibly the most important question. That was answered in his last start against the Padres. Chapman worked five innings, allowing four hits, struck out 5 while walking only one batter. I wouldn’t worry too much about this at the moment. We know he can go at least five, and hopefully, even more.

In those 5 innings, he threw 78 pitches. That averages out to 15.6 pitches an inning. If you take that same average for 6 innings, you’re looking at 93 to 94 pitches. With pitch counts and innings being as highly scrutinized as they are, it could present a slight issues with the recent injuries the bullpen has endured.

But let’s look at something here…

Johnny Cueto started 24 games last season. That’s a number that I’m sure could be a rough estimate as to how many starts the Reds would like Chapman to make this season. In those 24 starts, Cueto pitched 156 innings and threw 2,394 pitches. That’s an average of 15.3 pitches per inning and almost 6.2 innings per start.

Sure, Cueto did spend two stints on the disabled list. 2011 also represents the least innings and starts he has made since making the starting rotation in 2008.

Granted, Chapman doesn’t hold previous MLB starting experience in comparison to Cueto, but let’s take a peek at another starter, Mike Leake.

Leake started 26 games last season pitching in 165.2 innings in those starts and tossing 2,511 pitches. The average: 15.2 pitches per inning and roughly 6.1 innings per start. As we all know, last year was Leake’s second. In Leak’e rookie season, he only posted 22 starts, amassing 136 innings for an average a little over 6 innings per start and 15 pitches per inning.

To expect similar pitch counts and innings pitched is not unreasonable. 25 starts? 150 innings? That’s 6 innings per start. Take the 15.6 pitches per inning and that’s 2,340 pitches. Sure, you want to avoid those 100 pitch count games. What team wouldn’t?

Today’s a big day for AC. He will take the mound in what will be his most significant start of the spring. Yes, it is spring training, but at some point, the games do mean something.

And this one means a lot for Chapman…and those of us that have endlessly waited for him to be a proclaimed as a starter.


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Tags: 2012 Reds Spring Training Aroldis Chapman Baseball Cincinnati Reds MLB

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