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What to do with Aroldis Chapman?

Aroldis Chapman started the 2021 season on a scary good pace. So good, in fact, that everyone knew it wasn’t sustainable and he’d come back to Earth. What I didn’t anticipate, though, was him crashing and burning like this.

While Chapman was helping the team stay afloat in April & May, he’s absolutely shot them in the foot ever since. Let’s take a look.

Brutal blown saves

Chapman’s first earned run, homer allowed, and blown save all came on May 23 against the White Sox. Frustrating, sure, but the guy wasn’t going to be perfect all year. It happens, and the Yankees won that game in the bottom of the 9th anyway. All good!

Chapman’s next blown save, however, started a rather concerning stretch. It took him just nine pitches on June 10 to turn a 5-3 Yankees lead to a 7-5 loss at Minnesota. Homers off the bats of Josh Donaldson & Nelson Cruz promptly tied and then ended that one.

He picked up the loss in Philadelphia two days later. Hard to get too mad there considering it was the BS runner on second to start the 10th who scored. But it was partially on Chapman considering his E1 fielding a bunt put that runner on third. There was a close call in Buffalo where he allowed 2nd & 3rd with no outs to start the 9th, and then gave up a run against the A’s that weekend, but the Yanks won both those games. His next three outings are where it really gets bad.

Chapman blew the save against the Royals on June 23. The brutal blow was walking the backup catcher with no major league hits with the bases loaded to tie it. Thankfully, Gary Sanchez & Luke Voit bailed him out. But this was the first “maybe something is really up with Chapman” moment.

His next outing a week later was unbearable. After two rain delays, Chapman needed just five batters to blow a four-run lead. The lefty walked the bases loaded and allowed a game-tying grand slam to Jared Walsh.

That’s just rock bottom. It was evident at this point that the Yankee closer was broken.

So what does Aaron Boone do? Uses him in a one-run game on Sunday, of course!

 

Why is this happening?

I know everyone is blaming the spider tack crackdown. Yes, that makes sense as far as timing goes. I do think it could be the reason Chapman has seemingly thrown his new splitter less recently. However, I don’t think it’s the only part of the story.

Chapman has been an elite pitcher for a long time. His fastball should be good enough to get outs with or without sticky stuff. But he does lose command sometimes. We saw Chapman have a similarly awful stretch in 2017 that actually led to his removal from the closer role. Chapman briefly pitched in middle relief before returning to closing down the stretch and in the postseason. Could something similar be in the cards now?

Where to go from here

Boone is non-commital to Chapman being his closer at this point.

As I’m writing this, the Yankees have a 9-1 lead after 7, so maybe we see Chapman tonight. I think they’ll start to use him in middle relief as they did in 2017 until he’s ready to close again. But I had another idea that might be a little too much:

Do I think it’ll happen? No, but I’d be intrigued to see it.

At this point, Chapman is crushing this Yankee team’s playoff chances. Considering how far out of first place this team is, they have no time to waste getting their closer right.

What are your thoughts on Chapman? Comment below or tweet me @ncostanzo24.