Somehow, when I was initially putting together a list of players to write about, I forgot about Aroldis Chapman. Fortunately, a few of you reminded me, and I will now attempt to rectify the situation.
There are some issues with analyzing the Cuban Missile (or, as I wish he were dubbed, the Havana Heat). Primarily, he just hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t thrown that many innings anywhere. Fortunately, that is mitigated a bit by his tendency to make major league hitters look like they belong in a five-year-old tee-ball league.
Two questions were posed in the comments when I asked what players you wanted to hear about: How does he figure to do as a closer? How does he figure to do as a starter? The second question is harder to answer, so letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s start by talking about Chapman as closer.
Chapman is already all-world as a relief pitcher. The only thing that might be a concern is his apparent inability to go more than a couple of days in a row and be effective. Closers have unpredictable schedules, so if Chapman were the closer, Dusty might need to be willing to let someone else grab a save every so often.
Beyond that, I see nothing to worry about. If you take out his little four-game meltdown (1.1 IP, 12 BB, 3 SO), you get these numbers for this year: K/BB Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 3.3, BB/9 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 4.1, K/9 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 13.6(Ã¢â€ Â That is NOT a misprint). It is safe to say a closer can get by with that.
The more interesting question is, what would happen with Chapman as a starter? The real answer is, no one has any idea. His ceiling is Sandy Koufax and his floor is Dontrelle Willis from the last several years. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a wide range. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no fun, though, so IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll so my best to take a guess. For the purpose of this exercise, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m assuming Chapman can keep a handle on his control and mostly avoid meltdowns like we saw earlier in the year. If he canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a major league starter.
The news here is pretty good. People with a great deal more time and math skills than I have looked pretty closely at what happens to pitchers who go back and forth from starter to reliever. Surprisingly, they lose less than 1 MPH (0.7 seems to be the consensus) off their fastballs. Breaking pitches are more adversely affected as they lose movement as well as a bit of velocity. That is, all breaking pitches except sliders, which are almost unchanged. This is very good news for Mr. Chapman.
Given this information, we can, I think, expect Chapman to dominate the first time through the order. After that, questions arise. He only really has two pitches (though the changeup might be getting there), and that could be a concern. His other two pitches are so good, that it might not matter that much, but it has to be a concern. Additionally, strikeout pitchers tend to throw a lot of pitches, so endurance might be an issue.
In the end, though, I have to come down with the obvious conclusion that Chapman needs to be in the rotation.Ã‚Â His FIP with the Reds is 2.64 and even if that went up by a run, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d still be an above average starter. I have no idea why the Reds have someone with the potential to be a historically good starter in the bullpen, but they do. If they have any intention of starting him next year, it is time to start stretching him out right now because, to put it simply, good starters (who might be great) are more important to winning than great relievers.