Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman were highly accomplished 22-year-olds when they arrived as rookies to the Reds’ brand new Spring Training complex in Goodyear, in February 2010.
Leake, as a junior the previous year at Arizona State, compiled a 16-1 record with a 1.71 ERA. He (not Stephen Strasburg) was named 2009 National Player of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association and was also a first-team All-American and Academic All-American.
Chapman had already twice led the legendary Cuban professional league in strike outs. He had been named the top left-handed pitcher in the 2007 IBAF World Baseball Cup, where Chapman had struck out twenty batters in fifteen innings. His fastball had reportedly been clocked at over 100 mph.
Chapman’s early 2010 Spring Training performance put him squarely on track for the fifth spot in the Reds’ starting rotation, likely edging out Leake and Travis Wood. However, a minor injury set Chapman back a few weeks, giving Mike Leake the opportunity to begin the season on the big league roster as a starter. Both Chapman and Leake had looked similarly commanding in their inaugural Goodyear camp.
Since then, the Reds have logged nearly 2,100 regular season innings and, as you would expect, the best players see the most playing time. Joey Votto has been in the field almost every inning; so have Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs, when healthy. Bronson Arroyo has pitched 369 of the innings since Opening Day 2010, around eighteen percent of the total.
But how much have those 22-year-old pitchers played?
Mike Leake has pitched 277 innings, about thirteen percent of the Reds total.
Aroldis Chapman has pitched 50.2 innings.
To repeat, since spring of 2010, when Chapman appeared headed for the starting staff, the Reds have played 2,100 innings and Aroldis Chapman has pitched in two percent of them.
Over that same time, the Reds have given Yonder Alonso, Zack Cozart, Chris Valaika, Juan Francisco and Dave Sappelt more playing time than Aroldis Chapman.
Jim Edmonds played fifty-six innings for the Reds. That’s right, WLB Jim freakin’ Edmonds has played more innings for the Reds than Aroldis Chapman.
Jordan Smith has pitched 62 innings for the Reds since March 2010.
I’m pretty sure Dusty Baker had Aaron Harang pitch 50 innings in one week.
To the organization’s credit, Aroldis Chapman has seen more playing time for the Reds than Willie Bloomquist, who played thirty-eight innings for the team last September.
Counterfactuals can be interesting and maddening. If Chapman hadn’t tweaked his back in March 2010, maybe he would be the one with nearly three hundred innings pitched. Instead of fifty.
And it would be Mike Leake that the Reds would be grossly mismanaging.