For the time being, lets ignore the arguments over whether Aroldis Chapman is best used as a starter or a reliever. While we’re at it, let’s also put his recent run in with the law out of mind. Instead of all that, let’s just focus on the season that the Cuban left handed pitcher has played to date. It’s good. Very good.
Here’s an assortment of cherry picked numbers to prove my point:
- 24 and a third innings pitched;
- 43 strike outs;
- 0 HRs allowed;
- 7 hits allowed;
- 7 walks allowed;
- .275 OPS against;
- .142 wOBA against;
- 47.3% strike out rate;
- 7.7% walk rate;
- 0.00 ERA;
- 0.41 FIP;
- 1.32 xFIP; and
- 1.5 WAR.
It’s incredibly impressive, but maybe the numbers alone don’t quite do justice to properly expressing how good of a season Chapman is having.
- Josh Johnson, Jordan Zimmermann, Cliff Lee, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon McCarthy, Josh Beckett, Neftali Feliz and Jon Lester all have fewer strikeouts as starters than Chapman has as a reliever;
- If Chapman can maintain his 47.3% strike out rate, it will be the highest for a reliever in baseball history; and
- Ditto for Chapman’s 0.41 FIP, 0.58 WHIP, and obviously, his 0.00 ERA.
In fact, we can quite accurately say that if Chapman continues this pace, we will witness the greatest season a reliever has ever had.
This is how he does it:
- A four seam fastball that he throws 85% of the time, averaging 97.2 miles per hour; and
- A slider that he throws 14% of the time, averaging 88.2 miles per hour.
Remember the beginning of this post, when I was all like, “Let’s not talk about his role.” Okay, let’s now talk about his role.
He primarily uses two pitches. It’s not likely that a starter, even one with as dominant stuff as Chapman, will find much in the way of success only relying on two pitches multiple times through a lineup. He could certainly develop a useful change up or work on a splitter with which he’s been rumoured to toy, but until that happens it feels like a waste using his dominance for only a single inning.
That’s what makes Chapman the perfect candidate to bring back the swing man: that no longer used bullpen studallion who throws multiple innings on a more frequent basis than a typical starter. No one is suggesting that Chapman spend his arm like Mark Eichorn from 1986 – 1987 (158 games, 0 games started and 284 and two thirds innings pitched), but as has previously been discussed, more use of a team’s best pitcher in a role that allows him to be at his best shouldn’t be a scary thing. It should be embraced. And if Chapman’s 6’4″, 200 lbs frame can hold up, why not let him throw as many effective innings as possible?
In other words, even if he isn’t used as a starter, more Chapman means more dominant pitching and more numbers for all of us to look in awe over.