Many a topic can create a divide among Reds fans. Some love Dusty Baker as the manager while others call for his dismissal. Chris Heisey should be the everyday left fielder (well, that isn’t one for now seeing as Drew Stubbs is on the mend).
There is one that may have created a greater chasm among the fanbase other than Baker: Aroldis Chapman.
The issue at hand, starter or reliever. Since the day the announcement shocked the baseball world that the Reds had signed Chapman, many a Reds fan envisioned the Cuban Missile as possibly becoming a centerpiece of the Reds starting rotation. That has never come to be. After this past spring training, where Chapman was truly brilliant, there were more than a few that believed Chapman had locked down a spot in the rotation. Injuries and setbacks within the ‘pen led to Chapman landing back in the ‘pen…out of necessity, or so we were told.
With the transition back to the bullpen, one thing can be said of Chapman’s 2012 season thus far: he’s has been completely dominant. Not a person on earth could reasonably argue he’s been even more dominant since being placed in the role of the Reds closer. Here’s some facts…
- Chapman has appeared in 24 games this season. The Reds record in those games is 21-3.
- Chapman has appeared in seven games since being “named” the closer. He is 1-0 with 6 saves.
- In those seven games (7.2 IP), Chapman has registered 14 SO with only 2 BB.
- His slash against as a closer: .000/.077/.000. The OBP is only from the 2 walks.
- Chapman has thrown 113 pitches, 62% of those have been for strikes.
Let’s quickly look at those facts. Let’s say the pitch count and innings were from one start. Yes, I may be dreaming here. Of those 113 pitches, 70 have been for strikes. Last night, Johnny Cueto threw 118 pitches with 74 being strikes. Reds fans are adamant that Cueto is an “ace”. Imagine having two?
Now I must digress…
But those listed facts do not tell the entire story.
The Reds have played 16 games since Baker made the announcement of Chapman being the closer. Obviously, The Good Guys are 7-0 in games where Chapman has made an appearance. In the other nine games, the Reds are 4-5. Only two saves in those nine, one by Sean Marshall and one by Logan Ondrusek. But this tells us that in the last 16 games overall, the Reds are 11-5. A nice trend to say the least.
More of the story is revealed in the following table.
Stats for this table taken from TexasLeaguers.com
This table is for all the seven games since Chapman moved to the closer’s role.
In looking at this, we see that Chapman has basically become a one-pitch pitcher. You’ll see the heater and like it. While that could be disconcerting to some, with Chapman, it hasn’t been the case. Even when opposing hitters can sit on that fastball, they still miss that pitch almost 21% of the time. Considering the the strike zone is being hit on a regular basis, it makes it doubly hard for the opponent. For the entire season to date, opponents swing and miss on 18.2% on all of Chapman’s pitches.
And you look at the velocity. An average of 98.1 MPH. Yes, that’s the average. Last night’s performance is included with these averages. He did light up the gun last night when we saw the radar show 101. That pitch actually registered at 100.9, but what’s a tenth. And that’s not even the fastest pitch within the timeframe in which we are discussing. That would be 101.4 MPH in the June 2nd game against the Houston Astros.
One tidbit we’ve heard is that Chapman is not MLB’s hardest throwing reliever. That is true. Most say that “title” belongs to Henry Rodriguez of the Washington Nationals. Comparison: Rodriguez average FB = 97.6; Chapman average FB = 97.4. Not much of a separation. The big difference is performance and control and Chapman has Rodriguez trumped on both of those.
Bottom line: if you see Chapman entering a game, the odds are extremely good the Reds will win…and he will dominate opposing hitters.
Editor’s Note: And it should be no surprise that after publishing this post, Chapman absorbs his first loss and earned run of the season.