2011 Reds / The Phenom

Aroldis Chapman, Reliever

We all kinda suspected it:

Aroldis Chapman’s immediate future with the Reds is as a reliever.

“I would think so, yeah,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. “The plans are to keep Chapman in the bullpen right now. We’ll take a long look at Dontrelle Willis also.”

Certainly, I would prefer Chapman pitching in the rotation in 2011 (whether in Cincinnati or, to begin the season, in Louisville). There is no reliever alive — even a flamethrowing lefty — that is as valuable as a top starter. Management continues to insist, however, that Chapman will be a starter for the long-term, so we’ll just have to trust them that relieving next season is in the phenom’s best interests.

36 thoughts on “Aroldis Chapman, Reliever

  1. Yeah, we’ll just have to trust them. But, I still don’t like it.

    I hope that they don’t see him as just an 8th inning guy. Let him go two or three innings in high leverage situations.

    • Yeah, we’ll just have to trust them. But, I still don’t like it. I hope that they don’t see him as just an 8th inning guy. Let him go two or three innings in high leverage situations.

      Amen. I like the 2 or 3 inning idea. I really hope that the Reds don’t go back on their word and keep him in the pen forever. That would be a heartbreaking waste of talent.

  2. I think that is a safe plan for now untill he gains command of his pitches. he struggled with contol in the minors untill they made him a reliever so leave him in that role for now while working on his control. what realy scares is when they say they are also looking at willis for the pen. isn’t that why they signed him?dear god please do not give him a spot in the rotation over wood or leake or any of the young guys the reds have. there is a reason he has been with just about every team in the majors the last 2 years and that is he can’t hack it as a starting pitcher in the big leagues anymore!price may be a good pitching coach but he is not a miracle worker so let’s just work with him maybe being the replacement for rhoades and hope for the best. and I just read where the reds do have an offer for rentaria of the giants. please don’t let that be true or he will be the starting shortstop and leadoff hitter for the reds once dusty gets him into camp!this can only end badly for the reds if it happens.

  3. If the Reds still plan on attempting to unload CoCo somewhere (combined with the failure to resign Rhodes or another lefty reliever), then this is almost a no-brainer. With a rotation of Arroyo/Volquez/Cueto/Wood/Bailey/Leake, Chapman can also provide spot starts in the case of an injury to one of the afore-mentioned 6.

  4. “There is no reliever alive — even a flamethrowing lefty — that is as valuable as a top starter.”

    True as that may be, I just don’t see Chapman as a top starter just yet. Maybe he’ll blow everyone away with his development come spring training (which would be awesome), but he can be a hell of a lot more valuable this season as a ML reliever than a AAA starter.

    If we’re having this same discussion next year, then we might have a problem.

  5. I’ve been in favor of this since he was called up last year. I predict he will be the closer by the July trading deadline next season.
    The should definitely take advantage of his experience and training as a starter and make him a 2 inning closer. But as fast as he throws and his ability to change speeds (better than Strasberg can), this is where we would get the most value from him long term. As a starter, going an average of 6 innings, throwing over 100 maybe half his pitch count, I always feared he could blow out his elbow in a short time. As a closer, he would not be putting as much strain on his arm. I really do believe this is for the best

  6. I’m not sure I understand the thinking that Chapman being a reliever protects him from injury. Other than Hoffman, who never threw hard anyway, and Rivera, who only throws one pitch, what other reliever has stayed healthy and dominant for any amount of time?

  7. Is there even any evidence that a high velocity causes a greater percentage of arm injuries?

    • Is there even any evidence that a high velocity causes a greater percentage of arm injuries?

      How many knuckleballers have had career ending elbow or shoulder injuries?

  8. @CP:
    None that I have seen, but that is the perception. And I now remember reading about a Tommy John-like procedure Rivera had at some point. So now Hoffman is the only guy I can think of that was healthy and dominant for an extended period.

  9. @TheNatural:
    I would say 6 years. And after a 2 minute search, I found that Hoffman only pitched 9 innings in 2003, so probably a major injury there. I’m not saying that starting or reliever or velocity has anything to do with the probability of having a serious injury. It just seems to me that this is the perception with many fans (Chapman should be reliever to prevent injury), and I’m wondering where that perception comes from.

  10. @jrob45601: I’ve never encountered that perception from anyone. But Lee Smith, Billy Wagner, John Franco, Joe Nathan, Francisco Rodriguez, our own CoCo, etc. all have had 6 year stretches of closing without major injuries. I’m sure there are more closers and probably a plethora of non-closers who have had similar stretches.

  11. I think it’s a bad idea for many of the reasons the guys over at Redsminorleagues mentioned–
    –it doesn’t put him on pace to gradually add to his innings workload and build up to 200 innings. Rather, it’s a regression.
    –it’s a regression in that he won’t be developing his changeup.

    If it were my team, I’d start Chapman in the ML rotation and see what Bray can do, while at the same time using Leake as the long reliever. At midseason, once Chapman has met his developmental goals (innings/repertoire), he switches with Leake. In this setup, both guys get their work at the ML level, and you save some wear and tear as well.

    • I think it’s a bad idea for many of the reasons the guys over at Redsminorleagues mentioned:

      –it doesn’t put him on pace to gradually add to his innings workload and build up to 200 innings.Rather, it’s a regression.

      –it’s a regression in that he won’t be developing his changeup.

      This, to me, is the most compelling argument for letting him log more innings as a starter. In fact, I think it’s completely changed my mind.

      I’m not sure how realistic your idea is for allowing Chapman and Leake to essentially share a rotation spot for the season (how would Leake stay ready until he’s needed at midseason without accumulating too much mileage?), but it’s probably not a bad idea to let both guys compete for a ML rotation spot out of spring training, with the “loser” going to AAA. If it’s Leake, he’d be the sixth man/injury insurance, and Chapman could come back up as a lights-out reliever unless he develops his secondary pitches in Louisville.

  12. @TheNatural:
    Billy Wagner missed significant time in both 2000 and 2009 with injuries. 9 years apart yes, but thats 2 major surgeries. Joe Nathan threw 51 pitches in 01-02 combined, but he may have been back in the minors for that period. CoCo missed practicly all of 01. I know there are people out there that do not get hurt. Both starters and relievers. There is just no evidence that one gets hurt more than the other. And on this forum and others there is plenty of posters who say Chapman should be a closer to protect his arm.

  13. @jrob45601: You defined an extended period of time as 6 years. Wagner from 2001-2008, Nathan from 2003-2009, and CoCo from 2003-2010.

  14. @Sultan of Swaff: The starting rotation is not the place for Chapman to develop his changeup. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want him tinkering with an undeveloped change-up when he’s facing the Brewers, Phillies, Rockies, etc.

  15. @TheNatural:
    And you beat me at my own game. But history still shows that eventually, every pitcher has a surgery of some kind. But who am I kidding? After 6 years, we either wont want Chapman anymore, or wont be able to keep him.

  16. The thing I dont like seeing is the indecision. I think he will have more value as a starter, but am not opposed to him becoming a closer. But I look at a guy like Joba, and wonder if he got lost in all the flip-flopping around. would hate to see that happen to Chap

  17. Not to mention Chapman in the bullpen means he is not working on all facets of a starter in order to become that “ace” pitcher so many have clamored for to start that Game 1 playoff.

    I think the Reds are making a mistake with this move as it is not maximizing the chance of Chapman to develope into that “ace”.

    I will point to David Price of the Rays as an example. He was one of thier top pitchers in spring training for 2008 and 2009 but they sent him down to work on his game in the minors(and control innings), and not the bullpen in the majors. Even though he had good outings in the bullpen in late 2008 and on into the playoffs, the goal was to maximize his impact with was as TOR guy.

    The bullpen is the fallback plan/option. When guys like Billy Wagner, Riveria, etc prove they dont have that 3rd pitch to be a starter, they transition to closer/setup. Joba Chamberlain is an example how this can go very wrong. 😥

  18. For all of you who doubt that the repetition of high velocity pitching within a short time period has nothing to do with the risk of arm injury, I challenge you to go out and throw a ball as hard as you can 100 times tomorrow, wait 4 days and do it again, wait another 4 days and do it one more time. Seriously, go all out. Put evrything you’ve got behind it. Granted, I’m sure at best you’ll only be able to throw 60 MPH. But still, if you’re not hurt after these workouts, I’ll donate my own tendons to the next pitcher who needs them.
    Strasburg is 22. He threw between 93 and 99 MPH in about 8 starts at the major league level, not to mention his time in the minors last year and sure enough, he’s on the shelf for a year. And as someone said here, not many knucklers blew out their arms that fast. Bronson Arroyo’s fastball barely reaches the high 80s. He throws 200 innings a year without a problem.
    And I think 6 years is too short a time for a player to be considered dominant. If you’re really dominant, you dominate for at least 10 years (see Seaver, Maddux, Rivera). 6 years is just a good start

  19. @Python Curtus: No one is doubting the fact that repetitively throwing a baseball at maximum effort is damaging to a pitcher’s arm and shoulder. Plus, your analogy of the average person attempting such a feat isn’t comparable to a trained pitcher attempting it. But what about all the positional players who’ve required Tommy John surgery? Throwing a baseball is an unnatural motion, and both SP, RP and positional players are going to blow their arms out. Everyone’s arm is variably constructed, and no one can definitely determine the threshold for preventing injury that encompasses everyone.

  20. @Python Curtus:
    Who has been widely considered the hardest throwing pitcher of the last 5 years? Joel Zumaya, right? Almost all pitches recorded at over 100 mps over the last 5 years were thrown by him until Chapman came up. And he is just a set-up guy, so he must be pretty healthy, right? You know, except for those 3 surgeries he has had over the same 5 years. My point is that being a reliever and throwing as hard as you can for 20 pitches 2 out of 3 days isnt any safer than 100 pitches every 5. Plus however many times he starts getting loose and doesnt enter the game. And if a player gets up, then sits down before getting ready again and then coming into a game, its 3 times worse. Starters dont have that problem.

  21. @Python Curtus:
    And you were the person who posted in this article about being a reliever to protect him from injury. You say 6 years cannot be called dominant, and we were having trouble finding a dominant reliever who lasted 6 years. And almost all the ones who did had surgery right before or right after that 6 year period. Some, like Wagner and Nathan, had surgery before and after. So why the belief that Chapman is less likely to have a serious injury (“blow out his elbow” is what you said) as a reliever?

  22. Hopefully Chapman & Cordero can mirror the performances and roles that Rivera & Wetteland had for the 1996 Yankees. And no, I don’t think that’s an unrealistic comparison.

  23. I know I am in the minority on this one, but I don’t see a problem with this. If you watched him at all as a starter, he wasn’t anywhere close to the same pitcher. He hasn’t shown the ability to be able to go 7-9 innings like an ace should be able to do. He loses about 5 mph on his fastball with no movement and his offspeed wasn’t as effective when he started. Maybe it was that it started clicking for him later in the season. Unless he can prove he can go 7-9 innings being dominant, then him being a reliever is not a bad thing.

  24. @BJ Ruble:
    Fastball slower when starting, thats the case for most every starting pitcher whose is clocked slower just because they have to pace themselves to go 100+ pitches for a start versus 20-30 in a relief effort. In chapmans case, he is in the enviable spot where dropping 5mph still puts him in the upper 90’s.

    Note that it took Randy Johnson 4 years of starting to learn to control his stuff to get to ace level, all the while averaging over 5BB/9I and those were his age 25-28 years. Not once did i recall talk of him be better off in the bullpen.

    Good discussion. Love the chatter. 😀

  25. @jrob45601

    In addition to the aforementioned Hoffman, these are a couple of relievers who were dominant for awhile:
    Sutter, Lee Smith, Myers, Franco, Fingers, Rivera and Eckersly after his operation and move to the bullpen.

    I don’t know whether pitching from the bullpen is the best route for Chapman’s development or not. There are plenty of players who have had a long and successful career as closers, so I am also not sure it is any more detrimental to his health than starting.

    With the Reds appearing to have plenty of starting candidates, it looks to me that the Reds are trying to use Chapman where he best fits into the roster. At least until the starting pitching works itself out. And someone steps up as the replacement closer for Coco.

  26. I am not surprised at the heavy reaction on here. The upshot is this: Chapman has the upside to be a Randy Johnson-type starter, if developed in a way to bring that kind of dominance out. No one else on the current staff can say that. It is more important that the Reds develop Chapman properly for long-term success than it is that the Reds use him in tandem with Masset to set up Cordero (or replace Cordero if he flubs, as we all seem to suspect that he might). Bray, if healthy, seems like a LH solution. But the pen is always a precarious thing, and Dusty Baker, like any good manager trying to win games, is going to use Chapman as much as he can to shorten games. *I* do not subscribe to starting Chapman in AAA, being mindful of how Earl Weaver and George Bamberger used to develop Orioles starters and how the Twins handled Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano. But I do want to see Chapman more in a role that allows him to pitch multiple innings and get a feel for having to pitch, rather than just rear back and fire. I would suggest that Chapman will not be in such a developmental role under the current plans, and the likely exigency of Cordero’s flubbing in 2011.

  27. A) I am unclear on why people think Chapman is ACE material? Sure he throws hard, but so what.

    B) Whom right now is he better then that we already have penciled in as a Reds starting pitcher?

  28. @dn4192: We can’t answer question B until he IS given a chance to start. It’s also contigent on the vast potential people see from him to answer question A.

    He was a starter with the Cuban team. I think most believe that if he can control an upper 90’s fastball (or better, obviously), an insane slider (already well documented), and get comfortable with a chang-up, that would sufficiently flummox the best and the brightest out there for seven innings at a clip. Probably a k/9 rate of at least nine? Plus he’s a lefty. All of that’s ace material, if not yet unleashed. He’s also still quite young and lerning a brand new country. There’s no way to know but to try. If he ends up doing this out of the bullpen after a fair shake at starting, so be it.

  29. @Doug Dennis:
    “how Earl Weaver and George Bamberger used to develop Orioles starters ”

    meaning they, the Orioles, put thier young guys in the rotation most of the year to “develop” and not in the bullpen.

  30. I just heard an interview with WJ on mlbnetwork. He said that he expects Chapman to start next year, but wants him to work on his command of his pitches this year.

    That’s potentially OK with me, but last year as a reliever he was throwing about 90% fastballs, with an occasional slider, and no use at all of a supposedly decent change up. If he pitches that way again in 2011, I don’t see how that’s going to help his command of multiple pitches.

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