It’s hard to say what Aroldis Chapman we’re getting some games. On one end, Chapman has been stellar this year. He made the All-Star team and deservedly so. Even during his early glorious stretches, when he was shaky, we could always say: “Well Chappie will work his magic and get out of it.” Lately though, with blown saves against Tampa and now the Twins – two teams we can potentially meet in the playoffs – it is alarming. He did, however, close the game on Wednesday after initially looking shaky again.
And look. I’m Mr. Optimist and an elite level Yankee propagandist – the Bill O’Reilly of Yankee propaganda if you will. When he gave up that home run to Travis D’Arnaud I gave him the benefit of the doubt. That ball was hit 355 feet and had an Expected Batting Average of .160. It was the kind of fluke blast that got porched and well, as Yankee fans, the Bronx giveth and in that moment, the Bronx taketh.
Against Minnesota and a previous blown save in the Trop, it was just a different animal. I can’t even spin these meltdowns like the Yankee Hannity that I am.
In Minnesota, Chapman walked everything that moved and his velocity was down. It was reminiscent of last year before Chapman got hurt. That blazing fastball we knew and loved was more like a tinder hitting a paltry 95 MPH like it was Todd Van Poppel coming out of the draft. Hell, he sort of looked like Van Poppel against the Twins. Chapman managed to only give up one run and the Twins managed to do nothing more than that with no outs and the bases loaded but still. It was devastating nonetheless.
When you see Chapman’s recent struggles, it almost feels like a mental thing more than him just regressing to a terrible pitcher. We can hope that’s all it is because at Chapman’s best, he is a world beater. In terms of his statcast rankings he’s the proverbial Red Sea. And yes, if you’ve never seen a graph like this before, red is very, very, very good. This puts him in the elite among the elite.
Also, even with all these struggles he’s improved from last year in a few categories. Here’s the difference between 2018 and 2019:
AVERAGE EXIT VELOCITY: 88.7 MPH
HARD HIT %: 32.1%
WALK %: 14.%
AVERAGE EXIT VELOCITY: 86.4 MPH
HARD HIT %: 31.4%
Here’s what scares me looking at this data though. That K rate is down a full 10%. That to me is troubling. If your name is Aroldis Chapman, you take souls. You put fear in the hitter’s eyes when they are in your batter’s box. It’s hard to say why he is struggling and I’m sure more information will come out in the future but this is just one of a few indications that Brian Cashman needs more arms – bullpen included.
The one positive of Aroldis Chapman’s struggles is it’s still relatively early. There is time for the Yankees to do something about this, especially if their lead in the division grows. As I just said, maybe you go out on the market and pay deeply for a Brad Hand? Maybe you get a lesser known Raisel Iglesias? Maybe you put Chappie on the IL and give him an extended rehab stint to get himself together with this division lead being so deep? Maybe on that IL trip you send him to South America and do a week long Ayahuasca trip in order to find himself – or in his case, find the strike zone.