If you’re a Reds fan, you really have to be happy about what you have saw from Aroldis Chapman in his previous two outings against the Brewers. While his hard box score stats aren’t anything special (3 IP, 1 H, 3 K, 1 HBP) but it was the way in which Chapman pitched during these two outings that has me absolutely giddy.
In last night’s outing, Chapman was brought in in the 8th to face Prince Fielder. Lefty-on-lefty matchup (where Fielder is actually hitting better than normal: .379 BA on the year against lefties in 29 AB) to try to ensure the inning ends with just Ondrusek giving up a Rickie Weeks‘ HR as the only run in a 2-3 deficit. Chapman goes fastball, slider, slider and makes Fielder look particularly foolish, striking him out swinging. Just awesome to watch.
In today’s game, Chapman was called upon to go 1 and 2/3 innings after Sam LeCure was knocked out early and the game became a bullpen match. Pitching through part of the 8th and all of the 9th, Chapman managed to skirt through the meat of Miwaukee’s lineup and hold the 2-2 tie through to extras, only allowing a HBP and Corey Hart single and striking out Prince Fielder on three pitches again. And the best part of the whole outing? The complete fakeout pickoff to first on Hart that froze him solid and caught him in a run down to end the inning.
Overall, while Chapman’s outings on paper were just more of the same performance like he has given the whole year, watching it seemed a lot different. To me, it seems like we are seeing the evolution of Chapman going from a thrower to a pitcher and starting to learn how to best harness his prodigious abilities in the most efficient manner to get batters out. While the fastball only (only!?) topped out at 100 on the TV gun today, he didn’t need 105 MPH gas. Using the high 90s heater (settling in at 98-99) mixed with the slider, Chapman was able to think and place pitches in ways that just confused hitters. I have heard many say that that slider is a bigger weapon that his heater but didn’t really understand it, well I saw it today.
These last two games have finally proven to me something I was starting to doubt. I do think now that Chapman truly can be a viable starter sometime in the coming couple seasons. Seeing him able to take some heat off the fastball and effectively mix in the hellacious slider makes his ability to channel his talents into 100-120 pitches every five days seem very likely. While I know I was doubting Chapman a bit last week (and I still stand behind my assertion that he must continue to work on his stamina in order to improve and it looks like he is doing so), I now have an idea of what the final plan entailed when the Reds signed Aroldis. I just hope this evolution keeps right on rolling.