Is something wrong with Aroldis Chapman?

When you throw last night’s spectacular blown save on the pile of other recent lackluster performances by the Reds closer, it’s a legitimate question.

Chapman has given up at least one run in five of his last 11 appearances. Last season, he gave up a total of 21 hits. This season, Chapman has already given up 20. He threw a total of 6 wild pitches and HBP last year. He already has 5 this year. Chapman has walked 8 batters in his last 6 appearances. In terms of clean innings — no hits or walks — last season, Chapman, who was coming off the DL from being hit in the head by a line drive, started the year with four non-clean appearances. After that, only once more in his remaining 50 trips to the mound did the Reds reliever have back-to-back games where he didn’t retire the side in order. This year, it has now been eight appearances since he’s put together a 1-2-3 inning.

That’s the whiff of smoke. Let’s investigate further and see if it’s coming from a burning fire or just a smoldering GABP smokestack.

First, we have to acknowledge that it’s unreasonable to expect Chapman to duplicate his 2014 performance, which ranks as one of the greatest seasons for a relief pitcher in the history of baseball. Reminder: Chapman struck out 52.5 percent of the batters he faced last season. That rate was a historic best ever. He dominated left-handed (.128/.214/.158) and right-handed (.117/.239/.176) hitters alike. Chapman went an entire month without giving up a line drive. He threw his change up 73 times and only one time did a batter put it in play (for an out).

When a player has a year like Aroldis Chapman in 2014, we fans are tempted to expect it becomes the new normal. Instead, what we witnessed was a career year. Reality: The odds were heavily against Aroldis Chapman repeating that performance. And it should be no surprise that he hasn’t.

Strikeouts/Walks Chapman’s strikeout rate has fallen to 35.5 percent, his lowest since 2011. But that’s still sixth best for all relievers. Chapman’s walk-rate (14 percent) is its highest since 2011. His swinging-strike rate (SwStr%) is down from last year, but still the best in the majors. Chapman’s ERA-estimators remain strong (FIP 2.60; SIERA 2.84) despite being personal worsts since 2011.

Fastball velocity Chapman’s average fastball velocity has dropped from 100.2 in 2014 (a record) to 99.4 mph. That’s still the best in baseball by more than one mph. And Chapman averaged 101.2 in the month of May.

Batted Ball Profile Chapman’s batting average against (.222) is the highest of his career, but fueled by a BABIP of .373. Chapman’s career BABIP is .280. There’s nothing about his 2015 batted-ball profile or his rate of giving up hard-hit balls to indicate we should expect his BABIP to increase. In fact, Chapman has given up a lower percentage of line drives and hard-hit balls compared to last year.

Returning to our initial question: Is something wrong with Aroldis Chapman?

Yes. He’s mortal.

Aroldis Chapman’s strikeouts have always dazzled beyond reason — baseball’s version of crack addiction. The fact is, he’s been above average, but not stellar when it comes to save conversions. And while the save statistic has issues, that’s how Chapman should ultimately be measured, since that’s the role he’s been given by Bryan Price and the Reds front office. Blowing the save last night is nothing more than just that. One out of ten. That’s a bit above-average.

Based on the data, Aroldis Chapman in 2015 is a pitcher who has taken a tumble from his other-worldly career year of 2014. He’s now merely one of the top relievers in the game – one who happens to be in a slump with his control and in a bit of bad luck on balls hit in play.

The actual Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 lasted 13 days. Chapman’s rough stretch has been 13 games, dating back to walking the bases loaded against Pittsburgh on May 5. While there’s certainly reason to keep an eye on his numbers, we aren’t yet in the midst of a modern-day missile scare.