Cincinnati Reds in Review: RP Aroldis Chapman

There are a few perks to being a Cincinnati Reds fan. One of which, is the 145-year history. Another would be the legacy the Big Red Machine left behind (hell, we named our website after it—they must have been pretty solid!). Then, there is being the only club that the most exhilarating pitcher to ever take a Major League mound has been on. There have been numerous greats before him, but no one has ever flung a white sphere with red stitching harder than Aroldis Chapman.

Aroldis Chapman – Relief Pitcher

It was a sick feeling. You probably remember where you were when Chapman took a line drive to the face in Spring Training off the bat of Kansas City Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez. You hoped and prayed for no broken bones, eye sight damage, mental anxiety, or even worse, death.

The injury was an ominous beginning to a season that would be marred by injury. By losing their biggest weapon before April even came around would be the signifier that maybe it wasn’t meant to be in 2014.

Then a funny thing happened—Chapman came back…better than ever. Certain inside the game metrics will tell you that his 2012 was far and away more impressive, especially when factoring in the additional workload (71.2 innings in comparison to 54). Yet, other statistics such as his FIP (which was an astronomically low 0.89 this season, compared to 1.55 in 2012) and K/9 IP (set the all-time record of 17.7 this year, while putting up a measly 15.3 in 2012) indicate he was the most dominant he has ever been this past season.

Chapman’s domination of baseball has been otherworldly when healthy. Without jumping much too far into the future, isn’t part of the Hall of Fame criteria being the most dominant at each given position? Outside of Craig Kimbrel and Mariano Rivera, I’m not sure any closer has been more exhilarating to watch. The opposing teams crowd almost concedes that if they lose, they at least want to see Chapman mow down their lineup, or see who can at least get a foul tip.

There will always be the argument that goes around in circles like a dog chasing its tail. Instead of the dog getting tired, Reds’ fans equivalency will consist of watching Chapman head somewhere else in free agency after 2016. Should he be a starter, or a closer?

All I know for a fact, is that Aroldis has been the best closer in baseball since he took over the role in 2012. (Sorry, Mr. Kimbrel.) Any fan who has clicked on a game when the Reds have been leading late the past three seasons kind of hopes the offense doesn’t breakout and the other relievers all do their jobs, just so Chapman can make an appearance. Talk about must-see TV.

Who knows if Chapman can transition back to a starter? What I do know is, it won’t be the Reds doing it. Entering his age 27 season, the Reds have no guarantee of Chapman beyond the next two years. No longer is going down to Triple-A to learn to become a starting pitcher and build up your endurance an option—that’s literally what they’re doing with Tony Cingrani.

Aroldis Chapman possesses something no other human being has been found to have on this planet. His 105 MPH fastball is its own folk tale, for Gods sake. You watch the replay of the pitch, and granted it looks fast, but it looks like every other fastball than none of us reading could ever even probably see leave his hand. Hell, I can’t catch up to 85 MPH; forget 105.

The solution is so: allow Chapman to continue dominating. Keep the big guy happy, rested, and hungry for more strikeouts. That way, come the winter of 2016, he’ll want to come right back to Cincinnati with their open arms.

Chapman’s Stat Line:

0-3, 2.00 ERA, 54 IP, 1 HR allowed, 106 K, 0.89 FIP, 0.83 WHIP, .121 OAV

Top Aroldis Chapman Moment:

I don’t think there would be any argument from any reasonable baseball fan if you proudly proclaimed, “Aroldis Chapman is the biggest weapon in baseball!” It’s a fairly logical thought process that seems quite obvious, despite the fact that he pitches only one inning per appearance most times. Only twice all season would Chapman pitch two innings in relief.

One of those came on August 22 at home against the Atlanta Braves. It was a typical Chapman performance, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Evan Gattis, down swinging. Jason Heyward, down swinging. Freddie Freeman, down looking. Justin Upton, down swinging. Jurassic Park’s premier predator had gobbled up the meat of one of baseball’s most imposing orders.

I would also be remised if I failed to mention how tremendous his comeback game was on May 11 at home against the Colorado Rockies. Pitching for the first time in the Majors since his horrific injury in Spring Training, it was no big deal to Chapman, who would strike out the side and earn a save in his first game back. Sans a tuck roll off the mound, as well.

Low Point of the Season for Aroldis Chapman:

Undoubtedly his low point of the year came back in Spring Training when he very nearly saw his career end. If you wish to be so barbaric as to watch it again, the video can be found, but it is difficult to watch if you have somehow never seen it.

On the field, he allowed just one home run all season long. It would come in his second game back, at home against the San Diego Padres on May 13.

There is no doubt that Chase Headley’s power comes from the left side of the plate. Less than a third of his home runs in his career have come from the right side—which is exactly where he stood when strolling in against Chapman. Smoking a line drive into the left field bleachers, Headley circled the bags for what would be a game-winning home run, a loss for Chapman, and his only home run allowed on the season.

Final Grade: A+

If Chapman didn’t get an A+ plus, I’m not entirely sure who else could even be deserving. It’s tough to imagine a closer pitching any better than he did, especially in those circumstances.

Even with all of the bullpen turmoil, at least the Reds know they have their ninth-inning man secured. While I, like everyone else, would like to see his role expanded next season (and it’s a legitimate possibility with the all-around weakness of the ‘pen), it’s nice to know that baseball’s biggest weapon is waiting just beyond the centerfield fence.