I guess I’m the big jinx. Whenever a Reds player is performing well, I say something and…BOOM…whatever roll that player was on comes to a screeching halt. Such is that case with Aroldis Chapman. How do I play a role in this? Well, it’s not actually me, as you know. At least I hope you do.
Not too long ago, I opined that Chapman was in a word: dominating. At the time, he was virtually unhittable and opposing batters, despite knowing what was coming, could not square up the bat to the ball.
Guess what? They are now…slowly. I have a theory and I believe you will agree.
Just ask Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. I’m sure he’s on the jovial side this morning after his 10th inning heroics. Cabrera crushed a Chapman changeup/fastball (whatever you want to call it because it was at 94 on the gun) into the right field seats to deliver the Tribe a 3-2 win.
And Cleveland can party…for at least a day. You see, that LeBron dude is on the verge of getting his ring.
After a May 19th game, someone, somewhere decided that Aroldis Chapman was a better choice as the Reds closer than Sean Marshall. Since his closer “debut” back on May 20th, here’s a look at Chapman’s pitch selection.
Pitching line (5/20 – 6/19):
13 games, 13 IP, 1-3, 4.15 ERA, 8 SV, 2 BS, 21 SO, 4 BB, 0.846 WHIP
slash against: .149/.231/.340.
Reds record in appearances: 10-3
Now, here’s a look at pitch selection prior to that “move”.
Pitching line (4-5 – 5/19):
17 games, 21.1 IP, 3-0, 0.00 ERA, 0 SV, 1 BS, 6 holds, 38 SO, 7 BB, 0.656 WHIP
slash against: .099/.188/.127.
Reds records in appearances: 14-3
What may be more telling is how June has been a horrid month for the Cuban Missile: 9 games, 0-3, 6.48 ERA, 5 SV, 2 BS, 15 SO, 3 BB, 1.200 WHIP, slash against of .219/.306/.500.
So back to the main topic here.
To me, this an issue of pitch selection, Chapman did mix it up a bit last night: 8 fastballs, 2 changeups, 1 slider. Percentage-wise, that’s a little more in line with the usage pre-closer days. The issue last night was more of location. Only 5 of his 11 pitches were strikes. The velocity was down (Okay, we heard of the back “issue”), but when the rep of being one of baseball’s hardest throwers (and maybe that’s the thing here) has a fastest pitch of 96.8 while the Indians had two guys hit around 98, you start to wonder. And it’s not pleasant thoughts either.
Attention diverted and now we’re back on track…
Since being tabbed as closer, Chapman has increased his usage of the fastball by over 13%, thus cutting his use of the slider by over 9% and the change by almost 4%. Sure, the velocity is consistent.
Another thing. The variance in the velocity of his fastball and changeup is only around 4 MPH. Considering his fastball isn’t up to the constant triple digit bonanza it was a couple of years ago, the difference is less than most of us would like to see.
A question I have is why the apparent abandonment of the slider? Only throwing it 5.7% of the time? It’s one of, if not the best, sliders in the game. Chapman can make all hitters look simply goofy in flailing at the pitch.
Am I suggesting another move? Not in the least. While I have been steadfast on my stance the Chapman should be a starter, a move to place Marshall back into the closer’s role would clearly be a sign of panic. Those signals would resonate throughout MLB clubhouses.
That’s a sign the Reds can ill afford to have.
What I am suggesting (and I realize this will probably go no where) is that Chapman rediscover his slider and rely a little less on his fastball. Opponents have all these numbers I presented to you. Nice to blow a pitch by a guy, but when he has an even better idea what you’re going to throw, his job got the slightest bit easier.