May 19, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman throws a pitch during the eighth inning of a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

Why Aroldis Chapman Should Not Be the Reds' Closer

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.

Tags: Aroldis Chapman Baseball Cincinnati Reds Closers MLB Sean Marshall

  • JordanLeeBarhorst

    How far away are Masset and Bray away from returning? Those are two (when healthy) very good arms for us, which will add to the already superb bullpen. But, you can only have 25 guys on the team. 
    Who’s the worst Reds pitcher with options left? How do we replace that hole? I think a whole lot will happen very quickly when Bray and/or Masset come back into the picture. Decisions will be forced, and hopefully Chapman finds his way into the rotation. Leake finally showed up in his last outing, and Bailey was solid against the Yankees. 
    Having too many solid players is a good problem to have. The worst case scenario is Aroldis Chapman being the most effective middle reliever in the league. Not a bad scenario, by any means. But when you see what could be, with those 1 – 2 K’s an inning possibly translating over to 6 – 7 innings a start, it’s hard not to hope Leake or Bailey mess up. Just not too badly. 
    As for Marshall, I agree he deserves the job. He’s been phenomenal for years now, and is right up there with Chapman on the list of my favorite pitchers to watch. Perhaps if he threw that nasty curveball exclusively he could break a few opposing backs and ankles and get those saves by submission…

  • beeker

    Is it not fair to say that the Reds do not have a “closer” in the traditional sense? But with almost everyone in the bullpen pitching pretty well, the Reds find themselves in a unique position.
    I’d argue that they don’t need a ninth-inning only guy. Let the match-ups dictate who gets used when. If the situation calls for using Marshall in the 7th or 8th, why skip him because he is “the ninth inning guy”? Ondrusek, Arredondo and Chapman are all just as capable of shutting the door in the ninth right now.
    I’d love to see the Reds set a new trend. It might also save the Reds money if they do not have to pay out “closer” money. If both of those work, you’d see plenty of teams abandon the closer within five years.

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