I was all set to move on. Steve Mancuso had written a fantastic editorial on behalf of the editors of RN and I knew I couldn’t do better. I was set to swallow my disappointment (to the best of my ability) and move on with the season.
Then I read yesterday’s Cincinnati Enquirer. Specifically, this article by John Fay.
It contains no real explanation as to why this decision was made. I’ll highlight some of the quotes:
Walt Jocketty says: “It was like last year. It was what gave us the best opportunity to win as an organization this year. The rotation as it was, we had four guys who pitched 200 innings. We have another guy who is capable of pitching 200 innings. That’s a very strong rotation.”
I don’t disagree, but what about improving the team? Do you believe that Chapman in the rotation can’t top 8 wins and a 4.58 ERA (Leake’s contribution last season)?
Jocketty also says: “Leake’s had a good spring. As long as we felt he was close to coming back to where he was a couple of years ago, we thought we were a better team.”
Good spring? By what definition? I’m not big on spring stats, but what makes you believe this is the case? In addition, what makes you believe that Leake won’t continue to regress (his ERA went from 3.86 in ’11 (with a very low .269 BABIP) to 4.58 (fairly average .306 BABIP) last year).
He also says: “We’re a team built to win. In our opinion, this gives us the best chance to win now.”
And you believe that Chapman in the rotation (vs Leake) and Broxton closing (or Marshall, or Hoover for that matter) (vs Chapman) would have made a difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs? Because if you don’t believe that, then you have to look at the big picture also.
Jocketty also said: “We approached this spring exactly the same as last year with Chapman. He was either going to be a starter or closer.”
This is simply untrue.
Last year, he was being primed for the rotation, injuries made the Reds decide to move him to the bullpen and, eventually, Baker’s panic made him the closer.
Chapman didn’t record his first save until his 18th appearance of the season on May 20th. He was not “either going to be a starter or closer” last spring. Injuries sent him to the bullpen; he was never slated for closer.
Jocketty did not rule out Chapman starting in the future. “Who knows, one day he may start,” Jocketty said.
If not now, Walt…when? You’re running out of time. You’ve already wasted two years of his contract and this will be a 3rd and you still won’t know if he can start.
What did the team envision for Chapman when ownership spent $30M on him? Did they envision 70-80 innings per year or a starter that would anchor your rotation?
When asked about a 200 inning pitcher being more valuable than a 70 inning pitcher, he said, “We wouldn’t have gotten 200 innings out of him this year.”
Probably true, Walt, but a 150 inning pitcher is more valuable than a 70. So is a 130 inning pitcher.
Also, what happens next year? Then you’re really looking for a starter because Arroyo is gone.
Do we go through this same exercise again, only the need is more pressing because there is a real hole in the rotation to fill?
Yes, we’ll have options like Tony Cingrani and Daniel Corcino, but they’ll be unproven and I doubt you’ll get 200 innings from them either. Doesn’t it make more sense to try this NOW, when you’ve got some depth and the ability to overcome if it doesn’t work out? (And saying that, who’s to say if Chapman was still struggling mightily by say…Memorial Day, you can’t move him back to the pen then?)
I do not blame this fiasco on Dusty Baker (though I believe he played the media like a fiddle to get his way). Jocketty could have / should have shut him down at any time. For that matter, he should have made the club’s position clear before signing Baker to an extension and if he didn’t agree, he could have told Baker to take his services elsewhere. But once he was signed, he should have called Baker into his office and told him to get with the program or shut the heck up. (Of course, this is all assuming that Jocketty has the support of ownership.)
But my big question is this: what changed?
All winter Walt Jocketty said the plan was for Chapman to be a starter in 2013. Bryan Price said they had a plan to deal with the increase in innings. I even thought John Erardi had a great idea to stretch Chapman out and at the same time get better use out of an asset (Sam LeCure).
Spring stats are meaningless, we all know that, but Chapman’s (9 IP 6 H 4 BB 5K 1.11 WHIP) were much better than Leake’s. (13.1 IP 20 H 2 BB 13 K 1.65 WHIP). And according to Baseball Reference they played against similar levels of competition (Chapman was a little higher 9.3 to 8.7 on their competition scale).
So what changed?
It seemed as if it was Jocketty and Price on one side of the argument and Baker, the players who the media sucked into it (Arroyo, Phillips, LeCure), and a large part of the media (including former players) on the other.
I don’t believe this move will keep the Reds from winning their division. I don’t think it says they can’t/won’t win the World Series.
I don’t know if this had anything to do with disagreements between Baker/Jocketty on team philosophy (which both try to downplay in the article) or if it shows which one has more power with ownership or even if Walt changed his mind. Could be any of those.
What do I believe?. I think Walt decided that it was easier to do the safe thing than to do the smart thing because they would have taken some heat for it when Chapman struggled or when Broxton blew a save.
What I really believe is that Walt Jocketty chickened out and that this will turn out to be a wrong move in the long term interest of both the Cincinnati Reds and Aroldis Chapman.