Aroldis Chapman was the best pitcher in all of baseball in 2014 when he pitched. He was better than Johnny Cueto. He was better than Craig Kimbrel. He was even better than Clayton Kershaw.

The reason why Chapman was the best pitcher in all of baseball in 2014 was his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), and SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA). As you may already know if you are a regular reader at Redleg Nation, FIP and SIERA are the two best ways to evaluating a pitcher because those statistics only include what a pitcher can actually control.

In 2014, Aroldis Chapman had a 0.89 FIP and 1.09 SIERA. The next best pitcher (minimum of 40 IP) in FIP was Wade Davis (1.09). The next best pitcher in SIERA was Andrew MIller (1.21). For even more comparison, Clayton Kershaw had a 1.81 FIP and 2.09 SIERA. Aroldis Chapman was one of only four pitchers in MLB history (since 1901) to have a FIP of 1.00 or less (min 40 IP).

Obviously a pitcher like Clayton Kershaw or Johnny Cueto who pitched around 200 innings is far more impressive than Aroldis Chapman, but the statement remains true: Aroldis Chapman was the best pitcher in all of baseball in 2014 when he pitched.

The problem is that is Aroldis Chapman only pitched 54.0 innings in 2014.

Chapman didn’t pitch until May 11th, because he was hit by a line drive in spring training last season. That did limit Chapman a bit, but he only averaged 14.2 innings per month. So even if Chapman was healthy all season, he would have only pitched around 68 innings. That quite simply is not enough for a guy who was the best pitcher in all of baseball last season when he pitched. That is absolutely wasting one of the greatest talents this game has ever seen.

So how can this be fixed? I think we have exhausted the notion that Aroldis Chapman should be a starter. While that would clearly be the best way to use and maximize Chapman, it’s not going to happen. The next best thing would be to use Aroldis Chapman as a “super reliever,” meaning he could come in at any time of the game and pitch. That isn’t going to happen either. Fair or not, Price and Jocketty will demand that Chapman has to be saved for the 9th inning.

I have come up with a compromise, with the help of former MLB pitcher Carlos Guevara. Carlos came up in the Reds organization, and played with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Homer Bailey, Sam LeCure, and Ryan Hanigan. Carlos knows about the workload that a MLB pitcher can handle. He told me that “Chapman could pitch two innings at a time, but he would just need a day off after two consecutive days.”

On that premise, I came up with a better way to use the Cuban Missle. Here are the rules:

Chapman pitches in the 8th inning of any game where the score is within two runs

Chapman can not pitch more than two consecutive days

Here were the results of my research (this would be assuming Chapman pitched the entire season):

Chapman would have pitched 140 innings in 2014.

Chapman would be unavailable 25 times in 2014. 

Chapman would be unavailable for save situations only 5 times in 2014. 

These results are certainly not a perfect science. 2015 could be significantly different in the amount of games that are within two runs going into the 8th inning. Chapman likely couldn’t jump from 54 innings to 140 innings in 2015. I do however think that this gives us decent basis of how the Reds could better use their incredible asset. This would also make the entire Reds bullpen better. By using Chapman in the 8th and 9th inning of close games, it limits the amount of high leverage situations that others guys have to pitch in. This is not the perfect usage of Aroldis Chapman, but it is a lot better than him only pitching 54 innings.

Maybe we will actually will see Chapman pitch more than one inning at a time in 2015. Chapman has pitched exactly 2.0 innings in each of his last four appearances this spring. We can only hope.

Here are the full results of my research on Chapman usage in 2014 if he pitched with the rules that I provided above.

32 Responses

  1. Thegafffer

    I have said this many times as well, but great analysis. I look at it also from the perspective that only about 50 games a year are really in need of 3 innings of excelllent bullpen work. Most games are a blowout one way or another. Chappy only pitched in the few games he was needed (leading to long periods off) but he only got 3 outs when we needed 6-8 outs.

    What was the reds record last year when the ‘pen pitched more than 2 innings? Horrible I bet.

  2. vegastypo

    Interesting. I think that might actually work out, but for a not-so-hot reason. I fear this team won’t have as many save opportunities as we would like. Hope I’m wrong, but I’m concerned about an offense full of question marks and two newcomers to the rotation, one who is largely untested and the other whose last name is Marquis. … So I can’t imagine the Reds having three straight save opportunity games very often. At least we might have Chapman available to protect the late leads we do have.

  3. bhrubin1

    I actually like this even more than him starting. The truth is that 140-150 innings is all we would get from him as a starter anyway without dangerously increasing his workload. This maximizes the impact of those innings by guaranteeing that they come in close games. It is kind of the best of both worlds.

  4. Thegafffer

    If Chapman pitches 60 innings this year (around his average so far) for 8 million, then he is being paid the equivalent of 26.7 million (for a 200 inning starter). If that is the plan then why not pay Cueto and trade Chappy.

  5. preach

    This is an issue that I am proudly old school on. There is no reason that a pitcher of Chapman’s caliber who was a starter in the past should not pitch two innings at a time more often than not. The ‘one inning wonder’ is most decidedly a modern concept. It is statistically proven that a closer will face a difficult part of the order by pitching two consecutive innings as opposed to a random three by pitching one. Furthermore, since most starters are right handed, and our closer is a southpaw, unless the opposition is in favor or emptying his bench late we should be the benefit of matchups more often. Short of that, I agree that pitching the eighth as posted makes sense. Unfortunately the power of the word ‘save situation’ will over ride the sense this proposal makes.

  6. lwblogger2

    This is similar to a stance I was suggesting. The biggest differences was that he should be used for the 8th-9th innings against division opponents when the Reds lead by 2 or less, and that he should very rarely work 3 straight days unless 2 of them are 1-inning affairs. I also stated I’d never use him 4 straight games.

  7. Bip

    Does anyone have Chapman’s numbers in games where he’s pitched multiple innings? Sometimes it feels like he makes sure he gives up a run in the 2nd inning as if to scream ‘I’m a 1 inning pitcher!’

    • Nick Kirby

      That’s a great question. I can’t find anything specific on multiple innings vs single innings, but did find this:

      Opponents slash lines vs Chapman

      Pitch count 1-25: .147/.261/.226
      Pitch count 26-50: .152/.282/.182

      There isn’t ERA numbers for that, but I think that shows that when he throws more pitches it doesn’t have an impact on his effectiveness. He has however only appeared in 26 games in his career where he threw more than 25 pitches, so it’s a small sample size.

      • Chris Garber

        Anecdotally, however, my recollection is that he struggles mightily when used 3 days in a row.

    • HerpyDerp

      He has pitched in multiple innings in 24 games, totaling 40 IP, giving up exactly 1 earned run. Even in that game on 5/19/14, he gave up a double and two sacrifice flies in the 9th inning, then proceeded to pitch a clean 10th inning.

      Date IP ER
      9/06/2014 1.1 0
      8/22/2014 2 0
      6/19/2014 1.1 0
      5/19/2014 2 1
      9/14/2013 1.1 0
      8/21/2013 2 0
      8/10/2012 1.1 0
      5/27/2012 1.2 0
      5/12/2012 2 0
      5/06/2012 1.1 0
      4/22/2012 1.1 0
      4/15/2012 2 0
      4/11/2012 2 0
      4/08/2012 2 0
      9/23/2011 2 0
      9/06/2011 1.1 0
      7/29/2011 2 0
      7/24/2011 1.2 0
      7/22/2011 1.1 0
      7/10/2011 2 0
      4/27/2011 1.2 0
      4/20/2011 1.2 0
      9/24/2010 1.1 0
      9/11/2010 1.1 0

      • HerpyDerp

        Well $#!&, can’t edit that format… looked nice before I hit submit.

      • Bip

        Thank you! I stand thoroughly corrected.

  8. jdx19

    Very interesting take on this topic, Nick. This is the type of forward-thinking I appreciate!

    Just for what its worth, here are Chapman’s triple-slash-againsts depending on days of rest. I think they are interesting, if not terribly useful.

    From 2012-2014:

    0 days rest: .151/.217/.221 (199ab)
    1 days rest: .076/.194/.111 (171ab)
    2 days rest: .220/.306/.441 (118ab)
    3-5 d rest: .149/.274/.209 (134ab)

    Given the limited sample size, seems as if he appreciates 1 day off between his appearances.

    Also, likely not significant in any way (but fun!), 7 of the 12 homers given up by Chapman over the last 3 seasons have been on exactly 2 days rest!

  9. chezpayton

    It seems like there’ve been about 69 articles on Chapman and the Reds’ misuse of him. I agree 100% but you guys are preaching to the choir.

    • Chris Garber

      What’s your address? I’ll send you a refund.

      • jdx19

        I would also appreciate a refund. This unchecked aggression shall not stand!

  10. Frogger

    Enjoyed the post. We all want Chapman to help the Reds win more games. This article presents an idea instead of complaining.

  11. cfd3000

    Nick – I like 140 innings from Chapman, and I really like them if they are high(er) leverage innings. Using that model from last year’s results, how many times in the 8th last year did the bullpen (or starter) cough up a one or two run lead? And how many blown saves and attempts did Chapman have last year? No criticism at all here, just want a little more data to know how psyched I should be about this strategy. Gut says – a lot! Nice work.

    • Nick Kirby

      Well, Hoover lost 10 games last year himself. The more innings you get from Chapman, the less you get from bad or mediocre pitchers.

  12. Art Wayne Austin

    Cueto and Chapman could present quite a problem for the rest of the league as a SP duo, much like Koufax and Dysdale of the Dodgers. Attendance would suffer because fans would miss seeing Chapman on a daily basis.

    • jdx19

      You mean on a once-every-three-days basis?

      I would surmise that less than 1% of fans at each game bought their ticket for the sole reason of maybe seeing Chapman. Makes no sense.

  13. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Most definitely need to use Chapman more. What was it, I seem to remember, in a playoff series several years ago, where our best pitcher, Chapman, never saw any clutch game time?

    Or, putting it this way, why save your best pitcher for a save in the 9th when you may not even make it to the save situation in the 9th. Like a tie game in the 7th, for instance, and the other team’s big bats coming up. Bring in Chapman for them, probably one more inning, to keep them down. We come up with one more run, taking the lead into the 9th, then we give the save opportunity to another pitcher. Several things happen. First, I believe we utilize Chapman much more effectively.

    Secondly, I have no problem giving a save situation to someone else. Why? Look what happened with Chapman when he did get injured. Who did we have for the closer role? No one. We are going to need to know who can step into that role “just in case”. Just like, for instance, if Cozart or Frazier go down, we could know that Negron could go in there. Or the last 3 seasons, if one of the starting OF’s went down, we know we could plug Heisey in there. If Chapman goes down, who else has any saves on the staff?

    • redmountain

      Last year we had Broxton for saves, this year why not Cingrani? As far as who goes in if an OFer goes down, we have Negron, in fact same this is true for 3b, SS, 2b. As far as anyone else, that remains to be seen until the roster is set. However, there is no question that the Reds do have some guys in the high minors that the Reds can call up to the team. I hope for everyone to stay healthy, but feel much better about what the minors have available, unlike the past few years.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Actually, even Broxton was down at the start of last season for a while. But, before we got him, we had no one.

        I’m still no too sure what the minors have. A lot of our prospects are still pitchers. And, 2 of our best hitting prospects are OF’s. And, we are going to want them to be starting and getting playing time in the minors instead of pine time in the majors. We didn’t have that much in the infield, one reason why we drafted so many IF’s last season and even traded for Suarez.

        I’m still not that sure about Negron. He came up hitting exactly like Cozart did when he got called up. But, Cozart quickly cooled back down to his “baseball card”. I can’t help thinking Negron will cool back down to his “baseball card”. Remember, when he was hitting last season, he was getting some regular playing time. Now, he’s going to be riding a lot of bench. I’m wondering 2 things with him:

        1) How important was that regular playing time for him to get into a routine? (aka Devin first 2 seasons compared to last season, when he finally got some regular playing time)
        2) Once the book gets around the league on how to pitch Negron and the rest of the league pitchers make their adjustment, will Negron make his adjustment?

        I mean, I have no problem with him being a bench player on this team. But, something tells me without regular playing time, he’s going to revert back to his “baseball card”. Then, if he does get some regular playing time again, how soon will it be before the rest of the league learns the book on Negron?

  14. VaRedsFan

    Great article! Now who is going to ask Brian Price what he thinks about the idea?

  15. dradg

    I really enjoyed this article and the suggestions it contains. But I do think it is a bit misleading to say that Chapman was the “best” pitcher last year. It’s accurate to say he had the best FIP and SIERA for non-starters, but to compare stats between relievers and starters is comparing apples to oranges, IMHO. Surely Chapman’s FIP and SIERA would be higher if he faced the same players twice or three times in the same game. If anyone has the stats for how Chapman fares against NLC opponents compared to other division teams, I’d guess his FIP and SIERA are higher within the Reds’ division compared to outside it (which would suggest his FIP and SIERA would increase if he were a starter, or used as this article suggests, perhaps). Just a few thoughts that are NOT meant to be criticisms. Thought-proviking article for sure, which is why I come to RLN!

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      That is one thing. The only comparison we can make toward that, really, is when we did have Chapman at AAA starting, the book on him, I believe, was he could get through about 4 innings fine. But, then, after that, he simply couldn’t survive. As well as, as a starter, I simply don’t see him throwing 100+ mph fastballs the entire game. And, that was his strength. When Baker was over-using him, Chapman was losing speed there and becoming hittable, as a reliever.

      I do believe we need to and can use Chapman more. I will even say I could see Chapman starting in this league. However, if he is going to be a starter, he needs to go down to the minors first and get some seasoning, learn how to go longer starts effectively, maybe even work on his 3rd (and 4th) pitch(es), etc. If he stays up here, I can’t help thinking he’s going to still be most effective as a bullpen pitcher. We simply screwed up the idea of starting him when we had to call him up for left handed help in the pen several years ago.

    • Nick Kirby

      I agree that guys like Kershaw and Cueto were far more impressive. That’s why I said “Chapman was the best pitcher when he pitched.” Thanks for reading! Appreciate it.

  16. No Show

    I have yet to hear a convincing argument for the merits of FIP. If advanced stats profess that a walk is as good as a single on the offensive side of the game, than why is it a strikeout is so much more valuable than a groundout or a walk is so much more valuable than a single? Anyone who watches baseball knows that a pitcher controls much more than just walks, Ks, and HRs. That being said, I agree with using Chapman more effectively. It’s just so hard to shake the “traditional” notion of a closer out of the brains of MLB managers who have little to gain be messing with the formula.

    • Steve Mancuso

      The argument for FIP is that it measures the factors that pitchers have most control over. ERA began as a way to quantify the runs that the pitcher had “earned” (so really the same principle as FIP). But new thinking about the role pitchers play in allowing hits off batted balls has led to further improvement over ERA in measuring how well a pitcher has pitched. Basically 29% of all balls hit fall in for hits. That is true for almost every single pitcher. At most, a pitcher might drive that number down to 27% or let it rise to 31%, but those outliers may be due to random variation, not skill. For example, as dominant as Aroldis Chapman was in 2014, the percent of balls put in play against him that fell in for hits was exactly 29.0%. Madison Bumgarner, 29.6%. Adam Wainwright over his career, 29.1%.

      So pitchers just don’t control batted balls much at all. What they can control more is the number of strikeouts and walks they give up. Recent studies have shown that a pitchers strikeout-rate and walk-rate are the best predictors of their future ERA. A pitcher’s past ERA is a relatively lousy predictor of future ERA.

      No “advanced stats profess” a walk is as good as a single. That’s just the disingenuous characterization by people unsympathetic to a particular viewpoint. The “advanced stats” (if you count addition and division advanced) show that in 2014, a walk was worth .689 of a run and a single was worth .892 of a run. That’s not debatable. Those are facts based on charting every MLB game played last year. You can see the run-value of every offensive outcome, going back to 1871 here.

      A strikeout is more valuable than a groundout because ground balls turn into hits 45% of the time. Strikeouts take that factor out of it. Again, these are not abstract concepts. They are measurements (metrics) based on observations of every single MLB game played.