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Should The Reds Convert Aroldis Chapman Into A Starter?

Sunday September 23rd, 2012

Jake Dal Porto: When people discuss dominant pitchers, usually Aroldis Chapman enters that discussion rather quickly. And for good reason. His zipping fastball and wicked slider to back it have paved a path of success for Chapman in 2012. The southpaw owns a 1.60 ERA and has picked up 35 saves in 40 chances. It’s safe to say that he’s been all of what the Reds thought he was going to be to-date…and more.

However, rumors have been floating around for quite some time now that he could make the transition into a starter in the future. This would be foolish on the Reds’ behalf.

First of all, we’re talking about the same guy who hasn’t been able to pitch since September 10th because of shoulder fatigue. Shoulder fatigue is generally a sign of overwork or a small base of durability. For Chapman, both of those factors have disabled him to pitch for about the last two weeks. He has a case as to why his shoulder is tired. He has logged 67.2 innings this year, more than his first two years in the league combined (53.1). However, this lapse isn’t helping his case to be a starter. On the flip side, it’s making the Reds look foolish for ever suggestion the idea.

Generally, starters, or at least consistent starters don’t take many breaks. Chapman could break that rule if he ever became a starter simply based on what has transpired in September. Plus, who wants to juggle around a pitching rotation based on whether or not Chapman take the ball every five days? No one.

The Rangers can attest to that point.

When they elected to convert star closer Neftali Feliz into a starter, they soon found out that they would need alternatives in case Feliz couldn’t make his scheduled start. Well, we all know how that book ends as Feliz is now rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery. So converting dominant relief pitchers into starters entail risks as Feliz and the Rangers demonstrated.

Additionally, what makes the Reds and other baseball people assume that he would instantly be an effective starting pitcher? Feliz put up a respectable 3.02 ERA in seven starts before hitting the shelf, but then we have Daniel Bard who posted a 5.30 ERA in ten starts. So it really depends on the situation and pitcher. Yet, in spite of his effectiveness, Chapman could fall into Bard’s category.

Why?

His arsenal isn’t quite enough to get by as a starting pitcher in the major leagues. Granted, his fastball hits an average speed of nearly 98 MPH, but it’s not un-hittable by any stretch of the imagination. OK, it might be un-hittable for three outs in the ninth inning, but over a longer stretch of time, it certainly isn’t un-hittable. Not only because good major league hitters can adjust over the span of two to three at-bats, but also because he wouldn’t be able to consistently throw 98 MPH for five to seven innings. It’s almost impossible. That instantly dampens his dominance, and we haven’t even finished dissecting him.

Chapman, unlikes most starting pitchers, only has two pitches in his repertoire. The majority of starting pitchers posses at least three pitches. That’s the minimum. While Chapman’s slider is obviously an effective tool, it’s not going to be as effective because technically, it’s not an off speed pitch. It has a sweeping movement, but it doesn’t dip too far below his average fastball speed like a changeup or curveball would. So basically, opposing hitters are taking a guess at one of two pitches, a fastball or slider. Suddenly, guessing becomes easy. And as Chapman’s fastball trickles down to the 92-96 MPH range, good hitters are going to be taking batting practice. Maybe not quite batting practice, but he easily becomes more than hittable.

But the good question is, why would the Reds want to pull him out of the closer’s spot?

He has been tremendous at shutting the door in the ninth inning, so there’s no point in stopping that. Then, the Reds as an entire bullpen have statistically been the best in baseball. Chapman’s has played a huge role in that success as well.

And the Reds want to risk losing that dominance, Chapman’s dominance, and Chapman’s future?

It’s not worth the risk.

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

Jake Dal Porto is a Baseball Writer with MLB reports and a student from the Bay Area. Jake’s favorite sports moment was when the Giants won the World Series back in 2010. He loves to use sabermetrics in his work. He thinks they are the best way to show a player’s real success compared to the basic stats such as ERA, RBIs, and Wins. Jake also enjoys interacting and debating with his readers. Follow him on Twitter:

 

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About Jake Dal Porto

Jake Dal Porto is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score

Posted on September 23, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Should The Reds Convert Aroldis Chapman Into A Starter?.

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