After Sean Marshall failed to protect a three-run lead against the bottom of the Yankees order yesterday, a tidal wave of buzz washed over Reds country. It seems as though everyone, from Twitter to the national media to Dusty Baker himself, is talking about moving Aroldis Chapman into the role of closer.
I think it’s a bad idea.
Don’t get me wrong, I am concerned about Sean Marshall, but I think he should still close for now. Marshall has been an outstanding pitcher the last few years, and while he has had some rough outings this season, he has looked dominant at times as well. And, after all, Dusty stuck with Francisco Cordero through much worse.
If Marshall continues to struggle, I would not be opposed to replacing him and moving him back to the setup role where he excelled in the past. I just don’t think Chapman should be his replacement.
Chapman has been out of this world so far this year. No one can deny that. He has the talent to be an elite closer. But I am skeptical for a few reasons.
For one, Chapman has not been quite as dominant lately as he was earlier in the year. Still pretty dominant, but he has been a bit wild. Prior to yesterday’s appearance, he had walked three batters in his last three innings. He had only walked four all season prior to that. Even yesterday, while he did retire the side in order with two strikeouts, he fell behind all three hitters in three-ball counts. Perhaps I’m looking into this too much, but we have seen stretches in the past where Chapman went several appearances without finding the plate.
I am also concerned about his development as a starter. I had hoped Chapman would start the year in the rotation as he was the club’s best starter in the spring. I have since accepted that the bullpen is probably the best place for him at this moment, since the team is without Bill Bray and Nick Masset. But everyone in the organization seems to agree that he is fated to start at some point in the future. Well, when might that be? Down the stretch this year? Next year? At some point you have to put a concrete plan in place and act on it.
The key reason why I am apprehensive about Chapman closing is his durability. Last season, there were several instances in which Cordero pitched three days in a row. Once he even pitched four consecutive days. I don’t know if Chapman can do that, and I don’t think it would be worth risking such a huge investment. There were also a handful of times last year when Chapman struggled when making consecutive appearances. I find it puzzling that Baker hasn’t yet acknowledged this, since when he named Marshall the closer, he expressed similar reservations about Marshall not being able to pitch effectively more than two days in a row, despite the fact that Marshall’s numbers state otherwise and he has not, to my knowledge, been on the disabled list since 2006.
Hopefully Marshall can just get it together and all of this fuss will have been for nothing. But if Marshall continues to struggle, I don’t know who should close, I just don’t think Chapman is the guy.