Aroldis Chapman – Starter Or Closer: Perhaps 2013 Will Solve The Answer?

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Thursday, February.07,  2013

Chapman was filthy dominant in the 2012 season, with a 1.51 ERA, WHIP of 0.809 and 38 Saves as the teams closer.  He made the ALL-Star Team, finished 8th in NL Cy Young Voting and 12th in NL MVP Voting.  Will moving him to starter be a mistake?

Chapman was filthy dominant in the 2012 season, with a 1.51 ERA, WHIP of 0.809 and 38 Saves as the teams closer. He made the ALL-Star Team, finished 8th in NL Cy Young Voting and 12th in NL MVP Voting. Will moving him to starter be a mistake?

By Matt Steinmann (Reds Correspondent):

The biggest question from Reds fans this offseason has been if the move from the bullpen to the rotation is the best move for Reds pitcher, Aroldis Chapman and the team. Why fix what isn’t broken? Does he have enough pitches? Can he pitch enough innings?….the answer to these and all of the questions you can think of is pretty simple; we’ll find out.

This plan wasn’t something the Reds came up with overnight, when he was signed to a 6 year $30 Million deal in 2010 it wasn’t to close ballgames. It was to eventually be a member of the rotation. In 2010, the rotation consisted of Aaron Harang, Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey. Out are Harang and Volquez, in are Mat Latos and Mike Leake, who looks to be the odd man out in 2013 for Chapman. In his final season for his Cuban team, Chapman pitched 118 Innings as a Starting Pitcher, which won’t nearly be enough for the Major Leagues. The only taste of Chapman as starter against at least some semblance of Major League hitters came last year in Spring Training before closer Ryan Madson suffered a season-ending elbow injury. Chapman went 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA, striking out 17 in 18 Innings, walking only 2.

Aroldis Chapman – Fastest Pitcher ever recorded at 107 MPH:

In his 68 Appearances in 2012, Chapman fanned 122 hitters in just 71.2 IP for a K Rate of 15.3 Per 9 IP.  He has Struckout 212 batters in 135.0 IP for his career - with a record of 11-8 and a 2.33 ERA.

In his 68 Appearances during 2012, Chapman fanned 122 hitters in just 71.2 IP,  for a K Rate of 15.3 Per 9 IP. He has Struckout 212 batters in 135.0 IP for his career – with a record of 11-8 – and a 2.33 ERA.

Innings Pitched is a concern. Mike Leake, as the 5th starter last season pitched 179. Steven Strasburg, the rookie phenom for the Washington Nationals was shut down after pitching 159.1 Innings last season, and was not available for the Post Season. The most Chapman has pitched at the Major League level was in 2012, 71.2 IP out of the bullpen. That’s a huge discrepancy. Pitch selection and control are concerns as well. Although last season, Chapman’s control was much improved, when he struggles with it, he really struggles. How will it be over a 6 or 7 Inning stretch?

His bread and butter is obviously his smoking hot fastball, that can crack 100 MPH with ease, and his slider can buckle a hitters knees, but as a starter he will need a third pitch. He can’t rely on 100 MPH fastballs start after start, for 6 Innings at a time. However, it’s a great weapon to have if you need it in a certain situation.

In a recent article by ESPN.com, Reds pitching coach Bryan Price addressed the concerns. “I hear the argument, ‘Why mess with something when it’s gone so well?’” Price said. “I get that. We have a really good team and the window of opportunity is now, and we may be better suited to Aroldis closing rather than starting because we already have a strong five-man rotation without him. I totally understand that. But I also have a feeling in my heart that he’s not going to be the best possible pitcher he can be until he throws enough innings to master his craft. I think this kid has untapped potential, but it won’t come out until we give him an opportunity to mature as a pitcher. Does he have a chance to be one of the better starters of his generation? The longer we wait, the less chance we have of ever finding out.” The bullpen, other than Chapman remains intact, with Jonathan Broxton taking over the closers role. He has 111 Career Saves in 8 seasons. It’s a role he is plenty familiar with.

The Reds have a strong enough pitching staff right now that they can afford to make the move and still compete for the NL Pennant. That’s a position that they haven’t been in a long, long time. 

Jonathan Broxton went 4-5 with a 2.48 ERA and 27 Saves in 2012, while he split time between the Reds and Royals Franchises.  Having him as the closer makes it easier to try Chapman out as a Starter in 2013.

Jonathan Broxton went 4-5 with a 2.48 ERA and 27 Saves in 2012, while he split time between the Reds and Royals Franchises. Having him as the closer makes it easier to try Chapman out as a Starter in 2013.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com or their partners.***

A big thank-you goes out to Matt Steinmann for preparing today’s featured article. Matt was born and raised in Cincinnati, and has been a Reds fan his entire life, along with the Bengals and the UC Bearcats. His  first baseball memory was watching Pete Rose hit #4192 with his Dad and grandparents when he was 5 years old. He didn’t quite understand exactly the significance of it at the time, but it’s always stuck with him, and his love and wanting to learn about the game grew from there. Matt considers  himself lucky that I was able to watch Barry Larkin play his entire Hall of Fame career in Cincinnati, so he goes down as his favorite player.  Matt currently works for 700WLW radio, the Cincinnati Reds flagship station, as the producer for the early morning show.   Feel free to follow Matt on Twitter and talk the game of baseball

a  a matt steinmann

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Posted on February 7, 2013, in MLB Player Profiles, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. So they make Chapman a starter. Let’s say he does well. What do the Reds do with him when he reaches 130-140 innings pitched (which would be significantly more innings than he’s ever thrown)? Do they shut him down at that point? And who do they put in his place? The point is, they’ll never get a full season out of him as a starter when he could be their shut-down closer not only for the regular season but the playoffs, as well. I’d keep Aroldis right where he is . . . all season long.

    • I agree Lee. The Reds were good last year because of their 7-9 Innings with Marshall, Broxton and Chapman. Games are virtually over if the Reds were leading after 6. If Cincinnati wasn’t a good team I would say give him a chance, however they will be in contention all year. It could be another Strasburg situation all over again.. or even worse if they screw him up like the Yankees did with Joba Chamberlain. He throws so hard that he is best served throwing late in the games where the At-Bats are more important. I think he will have a hard time lasting more than 5-6 IP in most starts.

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