2013 Reds / Chapmania

On Aroldis Chapman

We might as well be prepared for this eventuality. The decision to move Aroldis Chapman from the bullpen to the starting rotation is going to be the biggest topic of conversation (and controversy) around Cincinnati until August, at least.

If you are a regular reader of the Nation, you already know this, but for the casual reader, let me be explicit. Redleg Nation is ALL IN on the move to the rotation. I love it, and I hope they stick with it. Now, how the Reds limit innings, etc…that’s going to be very interesting. Gives us stuff to write about. That’s a good thing, right?

Anyway, our friend Craig Fehrman over at Cincinnati Magazine has a good piece on this whole situation. I can’t say I agree with everything in there, but it’s a long and beautiful read. Go check it out.

97 thoughts on “On Aroldis Chapman

  1. @redsfanman: “Who is the most underrated Reds reliever in my opinion? Sean Marshall. I definitely have more faith in him as a closer than I do in Jonathan Broxton, and I have more faith in him than I do in JJ Hoover at this point.”

    We had this argument here before you became a regular poster. I’m on the side that a team doesn’t want a closer who has to throw his breaking ball in the strike zone to succeed. I agree it is a multisided argument but I am firmly on the side I am on.

    For my money, Hoover is at the same point as an MLB closer as Chapman is as an MLB starter. He appears to have the bona fides. The only way to find out is to hand him the ball in that situation. A guy closing at AAA can be brought up and dropped into that role just the same as a starter at AAA can be brought up and placed in the MLB rotation.

  2. @Jared Wynne: I understand what you are saying about “closers”. My personal pet peeve is pulling a guy who threw a shut down 8th against a strong part of the order only to have a “closer” boot away a game in the 9th.

    However sometimes I think it simply comes down to whether a team has enough arms to get from the starter to the end of the game. Some of those offensively powerful Reds teams in the early part of the 2000’s seemed like they were ahead or tied most nights heading into the seventh but as often as not could not close the deal, usually because of a breakdown in the 7th or 8th (as you alluded to).

    The years I am thinking of, Stormy Weathers seemed to be the 9th inning guy I think of most often. Many folks liked to carp that he was “not a closer” but he he more than held up his end when they got the lead to him. Now had he pitched in the 7th or 8th then most likely whoever it was that was frittering away games in those innings would have blown it in the 9th for them. So I see two things there. First off they flat did not have enough competent arms and secondly, knowing that, they held the best one to use last when they made it that far with a lead because he was most likely to successfully close the deal. I think it is a derivation of that thinking that has mos teams holding their strongest bullpen arm to the 9th.

  3. It really seems like a lot of people forget that Chapman was all set to join the rotation last year and only last minute injuries kept him out as he was the best starter in spring training last year.

    Now that the exact same thing is happening again this year, the story has exploded everywhere and set off a much fiercer debate than we were having at this time last year. Why? National exposure. People were raving nightly about Chapman and how awesome he was as closer, and it seems like some have got it in their mind that closing is all he SHOULD do.

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, huh? By that logic, none of us should have an iPhone or Android phone because, hey, those 10 year old Razr V3’s would still work just fine, wouldn’t they?

  4. Here’s hoping Dusty is overruled and Chapman remains a starter. As has been noted previously in these pages, Dusty is more dependent on using (and over-using) a single closer than any other manager. Losing Chapman is like taking away a child’s favorite toy. I predict Dusty will have Chapman closing by the end of April, sooner if he falters at all as a starter or Broxton falters as the closer.

  5. You want your best pitcher throwing the most innings, hence no. #1 starter (spot comes up most often).

    you want your second-best pitcher throwing the second-most innings, hence no. #2 starter.

    Etc. etc. etc. for third through fifth-best pitchers.

    You really don’t think Chapman is one of the Reds’ best 5 pitchers?

    Then he should be starting.

    Your closer should be your 6th best pitcher, at most (or 7th of 8th; I’d much rather have my best reliever pitching the 7th or 8th if the 3-4-5 hitters are coming up then).

  6. The team that decides to ditch the “Proven Closer” role, and use relievers the way that they were used in the Goose Gossage/Rollie Fingers/Big Red Machine era, will have a competitive edge over teams that restrict their best reliever to the 9th inning.

    Some teams have inadvertently lucked into good bullpens by not recognizing that The Set-Up Man was actually better than the designated Proven Closer. Hence, those teams use their better pitcher in the high-leverage situations in the 7th or 8th, and use the mundane Proven Closer in the less important 9th. (Sometimes the 9th is the most important inning, but certainly not always. Sometimes a game hinges on what happens in about the 5th, but managers seldom recognize it.)

    I generally like Dusty, but he isn’t going to be the guy that abandons the Proven Closer role.

    • The team that decides to ditch the “Proven Closer” role, and use relievers the way that they were used in the Goose Gossage/Rollie Fingers/Big Red Machine era, will have a competitive edge over teams that restrict their best reliever to the 9th inning……

      Overnight this issue stuck more in my mind that all the Chapman babble. I’ve not done any research or number crunching on it but let me put forth something of a counter view point just for folks to chew on if they choose.

      The math of the line up is such that the man who makes the first out of the 7th will bat again if the game is extended after him by a single plate appearance beyond the minimum number of plate appearances required to record the remaining (8) outs. And accordingly 2 extra plate appearances put the the second out of the 7th back to the plate and 3 the third out of the seventh.

      So it seems to me that there is a case to be made that if the best available relief pitcher is used (first) to put these guys down in the 7th, there is still a pretty good chance they will bat in the 9th quite possibly with men on base but now against the second or third best overall reliever against whom they are more likely to have success.

      Perhaps if the meat of the opposition order is up in the 8th, that is the time to throw your best at them regardless of the inning.

      Maybe somebody a little younger and with more gumption can crunch WHIP’s, men reaching on errors and as hit batsmen, and OBP to see how this might be likely to unfold over time.

  7. @CI3J: Chapman went into last season preparing as a starter and they found a reason to send him back to the bullpen. I’ve said all along, with Mike Leake around I expect the same thing to happen.

    Using your phone analogy, I have an iPhone 4S. I haven’t replaced it with an iPhone 5 because it isn’t worth the money to upgrade. I’ll upgrade when I have reason to. The need to replace Leake with Chapman is no more pressing than a need to replace an iPhone 4S with an iPhone 5.

    @storytellerpi: Dusty has been more dependent on using a single closer than any other manager? That’ s nonsense. Tell that to the guys who have managed Mariano Rivera. It’s not a matter of overruling Dusty, it’s a question of whether or not the GM puts Mike Leake on the 25 man roster or sends him to AAA.

    I predict that IF Chapman starts he’ll stay in that role until he gets shut down, a few months before the playoffs. I don’t think he’ll start and get demoted to the bullpen for ineffectiveness, but again Walt Jocketty would have to make a corresponding roster move involving Mike Leake, Tony Cingrani, or somebody else. It’s not all Dusty’s decision.

    @bearcats2004: Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as “hey you, throw more innings!” They can’t (or won’t) just double double or triple Chapman’s innings while getting the same level of performance. I expect all five other starters to pitch more innings than Aroldis Chapman, if they all got equal opportunities. Even Leake could pass 200 innings, Chapman will probably be shut down after 150.
    -You want to get the most innings out of your starters? Go with Mike Leake.
    -You want to get better quality innings short term until a guy has to be replaced after reaching an inning limit well before the playoffs? Go with Aroldis Chapman.

    -You want Chapman to contribute in the World Series? Send him to the bullpen.
    -You want Chapman to be shut down, Mike Leake and Stephen Strasburg style, in the World Series? Start Chapman in April.

    Are the Reds rebuilding, looking for 2014 or making a World Series run in 2013? Dusty seems to believe the later, as do I. Some fans and some people in the organization seem to believe they should be focusing on future seasons rather than what’s best for 2013.

    @Drew Mac: Hey, you’re the one in danger of losing. We’ll just wait and see. 🙂

  8. Geez. Tired of the bickering and the discussion about Chapman. So here’s my 2 cents worth because I think it is fairly in line with most people here.

    The biggest concern is injury, which can happen to relief pitchers as well, but the question is will the transition place more stress than normal on Chapman’s arm? Time will tell. But as far as I’m concerned the only way this fails is if Chapman gets injured become of the transition.

    I personally think last year was the last year I would have tried to move him to the rotation, but barring injury what it the harm in letting Chapman try at least? Gracious, it isn’t worth all this fuss. It’s a first world problem.

  9. @redsfanman: I actually remember a percentage (that I can’t find) that Dusty does use the 9th inning guy in save situations more than any other manager.

    I wish I could find the piece. I can’t even remember what site it was on. I believe the overall points were: 1. Dusty, throughout his managerial career, has pitched his closer in save situations more days in a row than anyone. He doesn’t like to mix and match in the 9th inning. If the “closer” is not actively on the DL, he goes in for the save. 2. Dusty brings his closer in when it isn’t a save situation less than anyone.

    Obviously, there will be exceptions to the rule. I don’t follow the Yankees closely at all, so I am less qualified to speak on Rivera’s usage. I just know that Dusty Baker’s closers are in the game when it is a save situation, and they aren’t in the game when they are not save situations.

  10. Who was the best starting pitcher last year coming out of spring training? Enough said.

  11. @redfanlostnyc: What role did Chapman find himself in after last spring? Regardless of how well he pitched he returned to the bullpen, I’m not sure what point you think that proves.

  12. Sorry but this move screams bad on all levels. He is a limited pitcher, who has shown problems with both mechanics and health. You already have five good SP returning from last year. You had a team that won 95+ games with Chapman working out of the bullpen and you just gave your no. 5 guy a pretty good raise. Chapmen is limited in types of pitches he will be able to throw and innings he will go. By seasons end the Reds will regret this move…

  13. @redsfanman: The analogy of iPhone 4S is to iPhone 5 as Leake is to Chapman is one of the worst analogies in the history of analogies.

  14. @OhioJim: I think the simplest answer to this is not to pigeonhole your best pitcher to one situation that has nothing to do with who will actually come to the plate.

    You are right though, it would be really interesting to see which positions in the order come up most often in save situations.

  15. We hear a lot in this topic (yes, from me) about Stephen Strasburg, Mike Leake, Neftali Feliz, Chris Sale, and some other guys. Maybe in discussing Chapman we should be focusing more on Kris Medlen of the Braves.

    What did Kris Medlen do? On July 31st 2012 he entered the Braves rotation and threw 57 pitches. His next start, 79 pitches. In his 4th start his pitch limit was raised to ~100. He was great, he really burst onto the scene and did great things with a dominant performance in August and September. Most importantly he was able to start (albeit unsuccessfully) in the Braves’ Wild Card playoff game.

    That’s what I’m rooting for from Chapman – handling him like Kris Medlen, not Stephen Strasburg. Sure, it’s risky, but I think they should have Chapman begin the season in the bullpen and work him into the rotation later in the season if they see a need to do so. I think that’s the only way the Reds can realistically use him as a starter in the 2013 World Series.

  16. @Jared Wynne: Both as an offensive and defensive manager/ bench coach/ pitching coach, I think would be most interested in knowing A) if the #1 hole batted with 1 out in the 7th, what was his likelihood of him batting again in the game and B) if the #5 batter is the last batter of the 7th, what is the likelihood #4 bats again in the game.

    Just on ordinal logic, I think it tilts to often using the best reliever in the 8th and being willing to send him back out for the 9th if he has a quick and painless 8th.

  17. The Aroldis move is awesome to debate for so many reasons. I’ll try to throw out two items that haven’t been offered before. Take it or leave it: (1) This team has a great chance to win the division whether Chapman closes at an 85%+ rate or pitches at an equivalent 4th or 5th starter level. So, even if he doesn’t outpitch Mike Leake (and/or injuries occur and Leake moves up into rotation and the total creation is equivalent), we would still have the best rotation in the division. So, I challenge the whole “this is jeopardizing the winning now argument” on its merits. (2) It’s October, NLCS, game 7, 9th inning. I’m not so sure (read: I’m on the fence) I’d pick Chapman closing in that role (or that he’d be so dominant). I mean, could he handle it? I’d suggest that perhaps Broxton or Marshall (two vets who’ve been “there”) might handle the pressure better. When the Keep Him Closing team makes their argument, they assume that Chapman is Mariano Rivera and chide the opposing side for assuming he’ll be Randy Johnson. I’m not so sure.

  18. I said on here before that I believe the Medlen route is one we needed to study more and look into regarding Chapman and getting the most length/value out of Chapman’s innings. However, if Chapman starts in the pen, they need to make sure he continues to work on his secondary pitches instead of relying on all fastballs. That is the big criticism of him now. His secondary pitches have regressed since he has become a closer and people question their quality especially his split. If we want him to start games later in the year, then he needs to keep improving those pitches for the second and third times through the order so they can’t just time up his fastball. Also, you have to wonder if he would be able to adjust to the changes of routine that come with starting as opposed to being in the bullpen as fast as Medlen did.

  19. I hate when severely advanced aging (or maybe just too much enjoyment over the years) interferes with memory. I think I recall that last ST Chapman was throwing a four seam fastball, a changeup and a slider with great effectiveness. The slider was particularly devastating. Do I have the pitch combination correct? Whatever the pitch combination was during ST, he virtually abandoned everything except the fastball once he moved to the bullpen. Now that he’s had the offseason to become reaclimated with his secondary pitches, I really expect Chapman to pick right up where he left off last spring when he also prepared during the offseason as a starting pitcher. Sheldon is reporting that he’s also showing a two seam fastball and a split finger fastball this season during early workouts.

  20. Does anyone else get the feeling that Bryan Price might be running the show (or at least have majority stockholder input) regarding Chapman’s transition? After the job he did in Arizona, then Seattle and now Cincinnati, Price is arguably the best in the business. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking driving my perception since I have a whole lot more confidence in Price making the decisions regarding Chapman’s transition rather than Dusty making those decisions.

    • @RC:

      Chapman himself didn’t “abandon” anything.

      I absolutely agree with your assessment RC. My use of ‘abandon’ was poorly chosen and intended to simply reference that Chapman quit using his secondary pitches without intending to indicate a conscious decision by Chapman.

  21. I wasn’t getting on you – I knew what you meant. Plus, I’ll use any excuse to trot out another Dusty bristle link. 😉

    Hmm… The Dusty Bristle Blues…

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