[View this as a companion (like minds!) with Chad's excellent post about the Reds closer's role in a historical context. If you're tired of reading how the Reds are under-utilizing Aroldis Chapman, avert your eyes. Warning: this post does involve the use of the advanced metrics of Innings Pitched and Sarcasm.]
Since Opening Day, the Cincinnati Reds have played 19 games against teams with winning records (Washington, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Washington again, St. Louis again, and Atlanta). In those titanic struggles, one team or the other was leading by two or fewer runs in 112 of those innings — in other words, when the game was close.
How have the Reds’ pitchers been allocated in those crucial innings against playoff contending teams?
Homer Bailey – 24.1 innings
Bronson Arroyo – 21 innings
Mike Leake – 19 innings
Mat Latos – 14 innings
Johnny Cueto – 10.1 innings
J.J. Hoover – 4.2 innings
Jonathan Broxton – 4.2 innings
Sam LeCure – 4 innings
Alfredo Simon – 3 innings
Logan Ondrusek – 2.2 innings
Aroldis Chapman – 2 innings
Tony Cingrani – 1 inning
Sean Marshall – 1 inning
Manny Parra – .1 inning (plus another appearance with no outs recorded)
Out of the 112 innings the Reds have played in close games against teams with winning records, they have assigned Aroldis Chapman to pitch in two of them. That’s a smaller role in those high leverage situations than assigned to Logan Ondrusek or Alfredo Simon. Chapman had the same number of appearances as Manny Parra. Get your head around that. Lately, half of Chapman’s work has been in mop-up games so that he doesn’t get rusty. The best pitcher on the team is often being used in meaningless situations because he doesn’t play enough when it matters.
That’s the usage pattern you might expect if an outside force, bent on ruining the Reds’ chances for catching the Cardinals, was deciding Chapman’s assignments. It’s like when Tony LaRussa used to reorganize his rotation to make sure his best starters pitched in the crucial games against the Reds. Except the exact opposite of that.
The Cincinnati Reds can play Aroldis Chapman whenever they want. They might as well have tied his dazzling left arm behind their collective back.
You could view this situation as an indictment of the restrictive closer role that has developed over time, as Chad describes. You could judge it as the inevitable product of the Reds’ fateful decision to put Chapman in the bullpen in the first place. Or a combination of both. Either way it’s a sickening waste of pitching talent.
GM Walt Jocketty said that assigning Chapman to the bullpen gave the Reds “the best chance to win now.”
Sure, how else could they have ever covered those two innings?