The Aroldis Effect: What’s In Store for the Game’s Hardest Throwing Pitcher?

Thursday February 16th, 2012

Sam Evans: In the history of baseball, no pitcher has ever thrown a baseball faster than Aroldis Chapman. In 1876, when the National League was founded, Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever telephone call. The athleticism of baseball players and overall talent in the league has improved significantly since then, but it is amazing that we now have over four hundred Major League pitchers that have an average fastball speed that’s at least 90 MPH. Aroldis Chapman is a phenomenal talent, who with the right coaching, has a chance to make more than a few All-Star teams.

Aroldis Chapman stands 6’4” and weighs 195 pounds. He’s left-handed and he throws a fastball and a slider.”The Cuban Missile” was signed out of Cuba (even though he had to establish residency in Andorra to get signed) by the Cincinnati Reds before the 2010 season. He was a well-known international free agent, thanks to his performance in the 2007 Pan-Am games, in which he led Cuba to a gold medal. Most talent evaluators expected Chapman to sign with a team with a larger payroll, but the Reds weren’t afraid to overpay for Chapman. The Reds signed Chapman to a six-year, $30.25 million contract.

In 2010, after spending more than half of the season dominating the minors, Chapman was called up to the bigs. Chapman only threw 13.1 innings that year, but his emergence was talked about throughout baseball. In his limited major league time, he struck out nineteen hitters and demonstrated his triple-digit fastball’s potential. In 2011, Chapman was blocked by Francisco Cordero, in terms of save opportunities. Chapman’s 2010 FIP was 1.35, and his 2011 FIP was 3.29. While, this would suggest Chapman had a rough year, he still was an above-average pitcher. His second time through lineups, I think teams started to figure him out more.

Another difference between Chapman’s 2010 season and his 2011 season, was his GB%. In 2010, he had a 73.1% GB%. In 2011, that shrunk to 52.7%. I don’t know why the Reds didn’t try to give Chapman some minor league starts last year. After the were out of contention, they should have given him a head start into the 2012 season by letting him start some games.

When watching Chapman pitch (I’ve never seen him in person, only on TV ), the main concept that stands out is his fluidity and rhythm. Chapman has a loose arm, and his delivery of the ball seems natural and not forced. If you saw only Chapman’s delivery, there’s no way you’d think he was throwing triple digits. He is tall and lanky and throws from a 3/4 arm slot. The Cuban Missile is great at hiding the ball for as long as possible, which makes his fastball even harder to hit. With Chapman’s large frame and smooth delivery, he has the ability to throw two hundred innings a year.

Chapman was always viewed a starter when he came to the United States. He started sixty-five games in the Cuban National League, and even Reds GM Walt Jocketty said that he saw Chapman as a top-of-the-rotation starter. The recent information about Chapman is that he will get a chance at starting in Spring Training. The Reds rotation is already deep, but Chapman could edge Chapman with a strong performance in Arizona this spring.

The biggest knock against Chapman as a starter is his lack of a third pitch. Chapman has never used three pitches consistently, which is unusual, but he has found success in the majors. However, as a MLB starter, relying on two pitches is a tricky route to success. Michael Pineda has shown that it is possible, but overall, there are not too many starting pitchers that rely heavily on two pitches.

Chapman’s K/9 ratio’s show that he can strike out more than a batter an inning coming from the bullpen, but I suspect that his velocity and strikeout rates would shrink if he were a starter. Instead of throwing fifteen pitches every three days, Chapman would be throwing one hundred every five days. If he had a third pitch, that would give hitters just one more pitch to prepare for.

Pineda and Chapman are similar in that if they both want to develop into perennial All-Stars, they will need to learn and improve their third pitches. If neither can learn a third pitch, which is very probable because they both are already major leaguers, then they can still have success, just not at the same level.

Aroldis Chapman is talented enough to succeed wherever the Reds decide to play him. He could either be a dominant closer, or a talented starter. Chapman is only 23 (he’ll turn 24 in two weeks) and he is under contract through 2015. The Reds have one of the most talented young pitchers in the majors, and they need to protect his development as a major-leaguer. Whether it’s as a starter or a reliever, the Reds need to find a position for Chapman, and keep him there. If Chapman can find his role on the Cincinnati ballclub, then they’ll have a strong chance of being a contender in their division for years to come.

**Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

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About samevans87

I love writing, talking, watching, and playing baseball. I am a baseball writer for MLB Reports and Fish Stripes. "No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined." -Paul Gallic

Posted on February 16, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Dodger Dog and Garlic Fries

    Good stuff son. Very thorough. Also, check out the sports science episode on Aroldis. More intresting facts about his delivery.

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