Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chapmania in Cincinnati

With all of the hype and excitement surrounding Steven Strasburg, Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman's callup to the Reds yesterday met with little fanfare outside of Cincinnati. After an easy 1-2-3 inning against the Brewers on only 8 pitches in his Major League debut last night, and with Strasburg done for this year and probably next with Tommy John surgery, all eyes are now on Chapman. I've been keeping track of him on various Reds blogs as best I can this season, but the few Team Cuba and AAA highlights I've seen hardly do his stuff justice. If you were to create a pitcher from scratch, he would have Chapman's long body type, fluid mechanics, and dynamic stuff. He has a fastball that consistently sits around 100 mph with pretty decent command, a filthy slider in the low 90s, and once in awhile mixes in a changeup that still probably averages a higher speed than half the league's fastballs. Last night he topped out at 103, and just a couple days ago it was reported by several scouts that he hit 105 on the gun in his last appearance for the Louisville Bats. Discounting Bob Feller's famously wild assertions that he was once clocked at 109, Chapman's has got to be the hardest pitch ever legitimately recorded. In a previous blog entry, I discussed how the show Sports Science calculated that it was physically impossible to throw more than 110 without your arm tendons shattering, so that makes his feat even more amazing.
The Reds were smart to call Aroldis up a day before the rosters expanded in order to make him eligible for the postseason roster. There is no doubt he will have an impact on Cincinnati's burned-out middle relief corps, but they're not paying him $30 million to pitch the 7th inning. At some point next season he is going to be stretched out as a starter again, where he struggled mightily in AAA, and the true test will be if he can consistently get major league hitters out or if he will become the next Joel Zumaya. The hardest part is over for Chapman - defecting from Cuba and being dumped in Kentucky for 5 months. I think Chapman will do very well for the Reds this September and hopefully October in a situational role, but his next challenge will be developing a good 3rd pitch in the offseason. You can throw 105 mph fastballs all day, but if they're not located well and the hitter knows it's coming, any big leaguer can turn one around. He may only be 22, but he has over 5 years of experience logging many innings for the Cuban National Team so he will not have to be coddled as so many rookies are. He can and will make an immediate impact on next year's club if he can develop his offspeed pitches, and if his arm doesn't explode.

Brewers 62-70, -15.0 (3 @ Reds, 3 @ Phillies, 3 v. Cardinals)
Reds 77-55, +7.5 (3 v. Brewers, 3 @ Cardinals, 4 @ Rockies)
Twins 76-56,
+3.5 (3 v. Tigers, 3 v. Rangers, 3 v. Royals)

Erik - 20
Peter - 48

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