As you bask in the aura of the Reds’ newly minted .500 record, add a little Aroldis to your morning, courtesy of Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs. Sullivan wrote in March that Chapman’s fastball was baseball’s new most-dominant pitch. This new article is about the Cuban Missile’s change-up.

Formally cross another item off the “Chapman can’t start” excuse list, the one about him only being able to throw a fastball. It was always ridiculous on its face to say that because he only used one or two pitches as a closer that he couldn’t throw more. Bryan Price has said for years that Chapman’s best second pitch was this change-up, if anyone had listened. The pitch is now a terrifying reality for major league hitters, made tolerable for them only from the relief offered by not having to face that combination for an entire game. How an organization cannot give a guy like this a serious look as a starter is beyond me.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 63 Comments

  1. Because he can’t throw off speed stuff for strikes consistently. If you watch enough games you will know this. Eventually everyone will be sitting on fastball, and letting the off speed stuff go. If you face 100 MPH for one inning your in trouble. If you see it for a whole game, Major league batters will catch up to it.
    Chapman has also stated that he is exactly where he needs to be. This team has starters. This teams biggest question mark right now is their bullpen. Do you need anymore reasons….

    • You seem like a Logan Ondrusek fan!

    • “Do you need anymore reasons….”

      Yeah, because those are all terrible. And they have been for years.

      • So who closes games then?…. Broxtons your answer i’m sure. Who’s your setup man?
        WHat other reasons do you need? Why would someone start who cant consistently throw strikes? On a team full of starters. We actually had to send one starter to the pen.

        • Who’s starting spot is he taking?

          • Today, if Chapman were actually ready? Simon. Later this year, when Simon’s arm falls off? Simon. Next year, allowing us to trade a starter for a hitter? Any of them, but Simon for sure.

        • “can’t consistently throw strikes”

          You do realize he’s striking out 54 percent of the batters he’s facing right now…That’s 10 percent more than any other pitcher in all of baseball.

        • Steve let me walk you through this one. I know you don’t need this if you actually have a clue about baseball which im guessing you do. When a pitcher comes into the 9th inning and throws 100+ MPH it takes hitters a little time to adjust. Fortunately for the Reds when he only pitches one inning, the other team doesn’t have said time to adjust to his pitching. Therefore he can throw junk up there with his fastballs and get people to swing. If you make him toe the mound for 6/7 innings it gives the batters time to catch up ,and we are talking about MLB batters, so they will adjust. It’s not rocket science, just a little common sense. ANd why will SImons arm fall off, but not Chapmans if he started all year?… I can’t seem to figure that one out either.

          • No one thinks Chapman will continue to strike out 54 percent of the hitters if he becomes a starter. No one thinks he’ll continue to average 100 mph with his fastball either. Are we through with the obvious and irrelevant points?

            If Aroldis Chapman can “only” average 96 mph with his fastball as a starter, it would still be dominant. If he had more time and incentive to develop his second and third pitches, what evidence is there that he can’t? He’s a tremendous pitcher and fabulous athlete. I just don’t get everyone imposing all these limits on Chapman, as though he can’t do anything beyond what he has done in the past. That’s so myopic. That’s also the point of the Sullivan article today.

            You act like Randy Johnson never existed. His five Cy Young awards indicate to me that hitters (and that bird) never adjusted to his left-handed fastball and second pitch. I think you underestimate Chapman drastically as well as the difficulty of hitters facing a left-handed pitcher. Tony Cingrani’s success throwing a pale-imitation of Chapman’s fastball last year was evidence of that.

            I wasn’t saying that the Reds should plop Chapman into the rotation today and have him start every game through the post-season. If you’d read stuff here more than two days you’d know that I’ve been writing for years that the Reds needed to get him starting so they could stretch out his innings. Although if they started stretching him out now, with an eye toward having him start toward the end of July – about the time Alfredo Simon has doubled the number of innings he pitched last year – he wouldn’t throw that many innings. His missing April helps with that.

        • If we are stating that SImons arm is bound to fall off like you keep implying. Why would the outcome be any different for Chapman?. Who’s your setup man?

          • I just answered your question about Chapman’s arm. It’s the last paragraph of my previous comment. If the current bullpen arms aren’t enough, then get some more. That’s the easiest part of putting a team together in some ways. Relievers are out there. You don’t keep a one-in-a-lifetime arm trapped in the bullpen because the team can’t find some people to pitch the eighth inning decently.

        • Randy Johnson threw four effective pitches, one of which was one of the nastiest sliders in the game. I’m not sure you should be comparing Chapman to Randy Johnson.

        • “Once in a lifetime arm”…. He throws hard, its a stretch to say he’s once in a lifetime because he reaches triple digits. WHat’s stopping the guy from developing more pitches? Many relievers develop more pitches while they are in the pen, why not Chappy?
          There is a reason why he’s not out there every fifth day, don’t you think? We’ve now had two managers who have shown no interest in putting him in the starting rotation.

          • I realize you’re new to the site and glad you’re here and commenting. I’ve written eight zillion words about why Chapman should start over the past few years, especially in relation to Dusty Baker’s old school concepts of closer. I’m not implying just because I’ve written all that it makes me right (far from it). It’s just a lot to go through it all again. If you’re really interested, do a search and find the posts we’ve done on it here. But here’s the short recap on your questions:

            Once-in-a-lifetime: Fastest recorded pitch ever, most dominant pitch in baseball (see linked article today), highest mph average, etc.
            Develop pitches in pen: He’s working on it. Everyone agrees that’s a slower path than if he stretches out.
            Two managers: Reds are coddling Chapman. Misplaced addiction to strikeouts in the ninth. Security blanket. Wouldn’t say no interest. For years, Price as pitching coach advocated it. The other manager you reference is Dusty Baker.

        • Johnson mostly threw two pitches. Fastball and as you say, great slider. I’m not sure whether Johnson is an apt comparison to Chapman either, but I’d sure like to try it and find out, instead of relatively wasting Chapman’s considerable talents in the bullpen. Johnson earned 111.7 WAR over his career, because he averaged over 200 IP per season. If Aroldis Chapman pitches 15 years at his current rate, he’ll earn 30 WAR, because he only pitches 60+ innings/year.

        • You see it as wasted talent. I see at putting the guy in the best possible position to succeed. With that, we shorten baseball games by one inning for the opposing team. If you add Broxton to the mix, the other team must be thinking they better score in the first 7 innings, or we will lose. Leads to pressing at the plate, which you will not find in any stat book.

          • Except that Chapman doesn’t convert saves at an above average rate. He’s utterly average at it. It’s fun to watch all the Ks but from a saves-conversion standpoint, he’s nothing special.

      • I’m not understanding what you are saying?…. SO hes an average closer with a once in a lifetime arm? So the only way to get value out of him is by starting him?… I simply disagree with that statement. There is no stat for understanding how a baseball game is played, and when the opposite team knows there is little chance of scoring in the ninth they can have a tendency to press. There is no doubt in my mind that managers of other teams think Chappy is far more then just an average closer. I dont care what some stat says.

        • The way I would put it is this:

          Chapman has such a good arm that anyone managing him (the Reds, currently) owes it to themselves to find out if he could be a successful starter.

          If you can’t understand that a good pitcher throwing 200 innings is more valuable than a good pitcher throwing 60 innings, then there’s no point even having this conversation with you.

          That one point is what the entire thing hinges upon. If he’s good throwing 60, why not find out if he’d be good throwing 200? If he isn’t, he can always go back to closing. Which, as Steve said, he was exactly league average at last year (I think 87% conversion rate was the factor, there).

      • The thing is, Steve, that Chapman (and his agent?) wants to close, not start. You may say that if the team tells him to start he has to, and you’d probably be right, but the willing generally do better than the unwilling, don’t you think?

    • I doubt he’d be throwing 100 for six innings, either. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I seem to remember him being relatively ineffective when his fastball hovered in the low to mid 90’s in the past.

      • That being said, he should be used for more than one inning, especially in high-leverage situations.

      • He can start. For two consecutive spring trainings he was the Reds best starter. He was going to start if Ryan Madsen’s elbow ligament hadn’t exploded. Don’t underestimate Aroldis.

        • I like when we agree. 100% on this one. Cueto-Chapman-Latos-Bailey-Leake would be heaven in 2015.

        • I used to agree. For once I’m going to defer to the people that do this for a living and assume that they know what they’re doing. Bryan Price is a smart dude after all.

          • I agree that Price’s reversal on this was puzzling. Price insisted for years that Chapman could start. Maybe managers just can’t resist the shut down closer, against all logic to the contrary. Let me add one more bit of arm-chair speculation – I think the Reds have babied Chapman. They’ve been too concerned with using him too much and they have coddled his stated preference for closing.

        • I’m sorry but basing your opinion that he can be a quality starter in the ML off of what happened in a few ST starts to me is flawed. ST is a different breed then what goes on during the regular season.

          • Well, the Reds were going to base their decision to have him start on spring training before Madson. As I said. And Bryan Price has been clear that Chapman can start. That’s not the issue with Price. It’s really unbelievable to me how many people think that Aroldis Chapman can’t be a starting pitcher. At least give him a try, given the upside. I can understand if people think he’s more valuable in the bullpen, although I disagree. But to doubt that he could be a starter, that seems crazy.

        • You only pitch 3/4 innings in spring training, which means you MAY face a batter twice. That won’t get it done every fifth day.

          • Well, leaving aside there are other starters who have been successful with mostly a second pitch, that’s kind of the entire point of the Sullivan article. Chapman (surprise!) has developed a third pitch. He’s the best athlete on the team. Got the best arm. Perfected a fastball into the most dominating pitch in the sport. Yet there are people who think he can’t develop a second or third pitch when given the chance and coaching.

        • No one on the Reds, and maybe all of MLB, has as good of stuff. With Chapman seemingly mastering two secondary pitches, he borders on unhittable. There is nothing, to date that indicates he can’t be a starti9ng pitcher. So rather then prove the positive, the burden should be on proving the negative. Way, way too much upside to not give it try, starting ST of 2015. My guess is the Reds will actually do it as it makes too much sense not to.

        • I wasn’t a big Dusty basher when he was the manager, but the one thing that I hold against him is re-inventing Chapman as a reliever. I think he is the one mostly responsible for Chapman being a reliever. He wanted that security blanket and he convinced Chapman that he wanted to be a reliever and now the damage is done. I don’t know that Chapman will ever make the mental adjustments necessary to being a starter. Dusty sold him on being a reliever, and now that is all that he wants to be. You can make him start, but his heart may never be in it.

    • “If you watch enough games you will know this.”… you might have a good argument, but I question whether you have seen him pitch since he has come back, it seems different with the pitches he is getting over and mixing up with his fastball.

    • But yet the REDs have a 1, maybe 2 pitch player Start for the best part of the last 2 years with Cingrani. Chapman is their most talented, if not skilled pitcher and he is stuck in the bullpen. He should in a position to pitch 200 innings a year and not 60-70.

  2. Hilarious! First stop this morning was FG. Just finished the Chapman article and came over here to post to let folks know to go look at it. 😉

  3. I’ve been in your corner all along with the Chapman to starting pitcher debate. But right now, mid-season of this season might not be the right time. After Chapman got hurt and missed considerable time, let him get back where he is comfortable. I’d make the move for next season though and start the process now. I’d have Chapman throw a bullpen session every 5 days of 50 pitches to start out and work it up to 75 as the second half of the season goes on. Then this winter have Chapman throw 100 pitches every 5 days in between his winter workout routine. He can then hit the ground running in spring training next year and will already be stretched out for spring.
    A starting 5 that Charlotte mentions above would be pretty awesome.

    • A bullpen session?? Why not let him pitch those 50 pitches in a game . Is there some rule that he has to have fewer innings than JJ Hoover and Logan Ondrusek?

  4. I do have one serious question regarding a Chapman as starter scenario. Who would catch him? I suppose that would be Pena. Now you are taking another 20% of starts away from Mesoraco, as Pena would then catch Cueto and Chapman. Better buy Mesoraco a Leftfielders glove if this scenario comes to fruition.

    • I think that’s where he’s destined to go anyway. He’s not much better than average if that behind the plate. Would rather have his bat in the game 150 plus rather than 110-120.

      • As a matter of fact, with the fact we aren’t going to do anything in FA again this year, be too busy trying to lock our own up, Mez in left with Pena and Barnhart catching next year would work great for me.

        • I’m 100% in agreement with this.

        • Better chance that Winker is in LF next season; at least I hope so. Mesoraco is just as good as Pena behind the dish (Pena is not good either), and Barnhart is a much worse hitter than Hanigan. Great defensive catcher, but just not good enough to be a major leaguer. You can’t afford to have two pitchers hitting in your lineup.

  5. The only issue I have is that Chapman throws too many pitches per batter faced (4.31 pitches per batter faced and 17 pitches per inning in his career.) These numbers would probably go down as a starter as he would pitch to a little more contact but it is still something to be aware of.

  6. FREE JUMBO!!!

    You want bullpen help, he’s just sitting there rotting in AAA and waiting for the call with his 1.35 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 3.10 SO/BB, 0.3 HR/9. And this is not the first year he’s put up such stats in AAA. For 2013, Jumbo had 1.66 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 2.86 SO/BB, 0.8 HR/9. Compare those stats with anyone in the Reds bullpen and explain why Jumbo is not on the major league roster and pitching out of the bullpen in GABP!

  7. You can wail on and on your siren song lamenting what you think Aroldis Chapman is capable of and NOT capable of. Have at it. There are still three irrefutable facts at work here.

    1. Aroldis Chapman is one of the great pitching talents in the game today.
    2. Over the last 3 years, he’s AVERAGED 61 total innings pitched per season.
    3. No one will know how dominant Arolids Chapman could be as a baseball player until they put Mr. 106 in the rotation and see once and for all.

    If you don’t want to find out the answer to #3, I submit you’re not much of a Reds fan.

    • Exactly

    • Absolutely correct. I’m amazed that people are content to have him close when his numbers are consistently no better than Cordero’s were. Just reference Randy Johnson

    • Whoa. I agree that Chapman should be tried in the rotation, but if I didn’t agree with that, I wouldn’t be much of a Reds fan?

  8. Best option: trade him. Regardless of what anyone thinks, he will never be worth more than 2 wins on this team for all the reasons mentioned. His value is high, his salary is starting to get high soon. Does anyone here want him as a 13 million a year 60 inning pitcher with the pipe dream of a starter that is far from certain to be successful? Next year you may be paying 8 million for replacement level SS and LF play. I would take a young/cheap 2 win SS, a 3 win LF and a 1 win reliever now.

  9. May I pose a possible serious reason why the Reds have not tried Chapman out as a starter?

    What if the reason he’s never been thrown into the fire is because Cincinnati KNOWS he will be an ace; and they don’t want him pitching for anyone other than the Cincinnati Reds. Stay with me here …

    The chances of Cincinnati signing Chapman beyond next year are slim, I think Reds fans know this because he’ll be paid as much as a relief pitcher can be paid. Cincinnati doesn’t have the kind of bankroll to fund a $15M a year relief pitcher that contributes 70 innings; but the chances are SLIM … not NONE.

    What happens if Cincinnati converts him to a starting pitcher this season, and he finishes up with Top 3 pitcher in baseball type numbers? Well, for certain, Cincinnati will not be able to re-sign him; because he’ll be commanding a starting pitchers salary, not a reliever’s salary. Yes, he’ll be much more valuable in a trade, which will be inevitable early next year; but maybe, just MAYBE, Cincinnati is slow playing this so they can get him signed long-term, build in a clause if he should become a starting pitcher; so he’s paid (not as well as he would be on the open market, but enough for him to be happy) and then turn him loose? This way, they lock him up, and reap the benefits of his stardom.

    Everyone wants Chapman to be a starter now, but you realize this would mean he’s 100% not here at this time next year correct?

    • Interesting theory to think about, although I doubt it’s right. One detail to straighten out is that his contract with the Reds runs through the 2016 season. So he’s under team control for this year and two more. Of course, he’s going to get more expensive as he goes through arbitration, but – consistent with your theory – he’s a lot less expensive in arbitration as a closer than he would be as a starter, I think.

      • I am actually buying it. Could be something in the works though. Imagine if the Reds sign Chappie to a 4 or 5 year deal at a bargain relief pitcher price and then convert him to starter. These past few years were just to develop and perfect his pitching mechanics. I buy it. I can see how it would have been a waste to send this guy to the minors to get experience starting and or developing his pitches and mechanics while he could be a knock out closer.
        Imagine this scenario: Reds extend Chapman for 5 to 6 years at a closer rate. Once he signs up you immediately convert him as a starter and call up Jumbo Diaz to replace him for the work load. Or…. maybe even more feasible is that Tony Cingrani replaces Chapman and Cingrani continues working on his other pitches. Yeah I am definitely buying it… either way. I would not be the least bit surprised if this pans out just like that. Of course it would take us either completely falling out of competition or the start of a new season in order to see such an approach take place.

    • So they decided to play this little game two or three years ago, when they had at least 5 years available for him to start? Not buying that one. Three words: Dusty, Dusty, & Dusty.

    • Was he pitching from a grassy knoll? I’m just thinking Madsen’s arm blew up and we just got comfortable. What you are saying may be incidentally correct, but given the lack of forethought constructing a bench and bullpen, you may be giving the FO too much credit.

  10. The only question in my mind is how capable is he physically of enduring 100 plus pitch counts ever 5 days over 162 games for roughly 32 starts in a year? Has he ever come even close to that type of work load when he was pitching in Cuba?

    • Probably did. If he can’t handle it, then he becomes a closer again.

    • No pitcher ever comes close to that type of workload until the upper minor league levels of professional baseball, so that is an unknown for every starting pitcher. There is simply no reason to assume that is a problem until it becomes a problem. The real issue is can he throw strikes as a starting pitcher and can he get hitters out as a starting pitcher. I think there is a high probability that the answer to both of those questions comes out in the affirmative. We just don’t know how affirmative.

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.