In order to be a successful starter, Chapman must display a bigger variety of pitches in moving to the starting rotation. (Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE)

Chapman to be on Innings Limit

You knew it was coming, didn’t you? The onslaught of opinions of the Reds inking Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21MM deal creating the means to move Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation. But there’s a little more to it.

Seems Chapman will be under an innings limit according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Well, those aren’t Fay’s words. Those are the words of Reds pitching coach Bryan Price.

So the next question would be how many innings? Said Price…

“That’s a great question,” Price said. “I don’t think there’s an absolute. You have to have a plan and hope (it) works. Any time you have a young pitcher and he’s going to surpass his inning total, there’s going to be questions if he gets hurt.

“We can’t be scared of that.”

“A hard number, I can’t say,” he said. “I’d like to see where he is in terms of innings and pitches after 25 or 30 starts.”

So the next inevitable occurred. The snarky questions about the end result due to a similar situation involving the Washington Nationals and Stephen Strasburg. The Nats made the post-season, but like the Reds, did not advance past the NLDS. Some will point at Strasburg’s “absence” as a reason.

Sale had an amazing 2012 after spending two seasons in the White Sox bullpen. (Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE)

I saw a comment on Twitter and in reading Matt Snyder’s piece on looking at the bright side of things. The name mentioned: Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. With good reason, too.

Sale was able to make the successful transition from reliever (and playing somewhat the part of a closer) to that of a starter. This past season, Sale pitched 192 innings and compiled a record of 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA and 1.135 WHIP. Sale also finished 6th in the AL Cy Young voting. Sale also had 29 starts. His longest rest between starts was 11 days…the All-Star break. And Sale was also selected to the All-Star Game.

Snyder also mentions Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Eventually, Samardzija was shut down after a pair of September starts with 28 starts and 174.2 innings under his belt. For the 2012 season, he posted a 9-13 record with a respectable 3.91 ERA and 1.219 WHIP.

A common trait between Sale and Samardzija was a decrease in their walk rates with Sale’s going from 3.4 to 2.4 and Samardzija’s seeing a steep decrease from 5.1 to 2.9.

Yes, there are the obvious cases where this didn’t quite work. Joba Chamberlain. Neftali Feliz. Daniel Bard. It’s a risk. Maybe that’s understating it a little.

Recall where Price said something along the lines of being scared?  It’s a by-product of this move, isn’t it?

Of course the Reds hope the outcome for the 2013 season is along the way of Sale’s 2012 performance. He did have 28 starts, within the vague parameters Price stated. There’s the issue of Chapman potentially pitching 192 innings, though.

Maybe a bigger issue for Chapman will be pitch selection. As I stated yesterday, with Chapman as a closer, opposing batters knew the fastball was coming. With him now making the move to the rotation, his secondary pitches will come under a greater focus…and a greater scrutiny.

In fact, this move may well be under even bigger focus and scrutiny. You’ve certainly read and/or heard of the potential for injury. You’ve heard and/or read of how he can potentially dominate as a starter.

I think Snyder describes this the best…

“So, yes, there’s upside to Chapman moving into the rotation. But there’s also plenty of downside, as we’ve seen from a few others. Time will tell if this is the correct decision for the Reds, but it’s pretty hard to blame them for wanting to get three times as much mileage out of such a dominant arm.”

Bottom line is this: Moving Chapman to the rotation does give the Reds a better starting five.

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Tags: Aroldis Chapman Cincinnati Reds

  • beeker

    Considering that Chapman has only pitched 135 innings in 3 years as a Red, an innings count HAS to be put on him. Hopefully Dusty will stretch him along by pulling him after 5-6 innings and skipping him when he can. But even with that, it seems unlikely IMO that he can start all year and still go in the post-season. Maybe in 2014, but not 2013.

    Pitch development is a great point. He can’t throw 98-101 all the time, so he must have at least a passable change-up by spring. A fourth pitch would be even better, but that is a lot to expect in one off-season. It will be fun to watch the physical and mental transition from flamethrower to crafty artist. (And it may be painful to listen to the fan base when he hits bumps during the transition.)

    The good thing is that even if the transition to starter does not work out (although I think it will work out), all of his preparation will still be useful if he should end up back as the closer.