Last night, I went to the Bats-Clippers game in Columbus, specifically to see Aroldis Chapman. It was the first time he’s pitched past the 7th inning stretch, and on paper, it was his best or second-best start: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 88 pitches (51 strikes). He left w/ 3-2 lead, which was later blown by Jon Adkins.
But to my untrained eye, Chapman has a ways to go before he can really help the major league club. (The “scouting report” that follows should be taken with a pound of salt, as I was sitting down the 3B line, and entertaining a 2-year-old most of the night. )
Chapman is largely as advertised. His throwing motion, if inconsistent, is very “free and easy.” He looks to be exerting himself only slightly more than Bronson Arroyo does, yet Chapman hit “00” on the Huntington Park radar gun at least once, and regularly worked in the 93-95 range.
Chapman’s slider was right at 83-84, and didn’t appear to be a consistent strike pitch. I guess, ultimately, only a couple balls were really hard-hit (though the Clippers did smoke some grounders right at infielders).
He had control problems at times – nearly removing Wes Hodges’ head on a ball 4, and making Carlos Santana(?) skip rope another time. There was also a ball that sailed clear past catcher Wilkin Castillo. One thing Chapman did nicely was recover quickly after visits from pitching coach Ted Power. That happened in both the 6th and 7th. Hopefully, Chapman is learning how to fix his own mechanical and focus issues. Chapman did coax huge double-play balls to erase Columbus threats in the 3rd and 4th, and used his exceptional pickoff move to end the 5th. It wasn’t the kind of dominant performance I was expecting, but it was effective.
The odd thing is that Chapman’s line could’ve been even better. He also had the aforementioned Hodges picked off, but Bats 1B Yonder Alonso couldn’t get the ball out of his glove when Hodges broke for second. Hodges then scored an “earned” run on Josh Phelps’ double. Phelps doubled again in the 5th, and scored the other earned run off a bloop single.
Chapman’s clearly very talented, but I’m very glad that the Reds are both playing and drawing well right now. Because I don’t think he’s quite ready yet, despite the impressive numbers. Anyway, on to a whole raft of photos after the break.