Mid-Season Report Card: Aroldis Chapman
In an offseason that was relatively quiet, Aroldis Chapman was the Yankees “Big Fish” acquisition. The Yankees landed Chapman for the second offseason in a row, this time through the free agent market. Chapman was dominant for the Yankees throughout the first half of the 2016 season before being dealt at the trade deadline to the Chicago Cubs for a package headlined by Gleybar Torres. Although there was some concern about how heavily he was worked throughout the 2016 postseason, the Yankees inked the 28 year old fireballer to a five year contract in December.
|Credit: Chris O'Meara AP|
First half performance:
The Yankees entered free agency this past winter with closer as a top priority. Although there were other top options such as Kenley Jensen available, there seemed to be strong mutual interest in a reunion from the very beginning. Hal Steinbrenner alluded to Chapman already having proven his ability to play with the pressure of New York and Chapman had expressed his fondness of his time in New York in a quote from an interview with NY Sports Day, saying “I would love to be a Yankee again”. The Yankees made that come true and out of the gate Chapman looked like the dominant pitcher we have seen since his arrival in the majors.
So far this season Chapman has made 19 appearances, pitching 17.1 innings while allowing 15 hits, walking six and striking out 28. In his first 12 appearances he pitched to an ERA of 0.79 but over the course of his next two appearances his ERA ballooned to 3.55 and Chapman was placed on the disabled list following his appearance on May 12th with inflammation in his left rotator cuff.
|Credit: Caylor Arnold USA Today Sports|
Chapman would miss a little more than a month, making his return to the team on June 18th. Over the course of that month Dellin Betances filled in admirably as the closer, but Chapman’s absence as an anchor hurt the Yankees’ bullpen and forced pitchers into roles that they were not used to being in. With Chapman gone and Betances now closing, the Yankees watched several games get away from the in the seventh and eighth innings. The team was able to stay afloat fairly well without Chapman until their most recent West Coast road trip, where the lack of depth caused by his absence taxed the bullpen and was a major factor in the team losing seven games in a row and 10 out of 15. Since his return Chapman has made five appearances, allowing one earned run in 4.2 IP while striking out seven and issuing no walks. He has seemed a little rusty at times since his return but Chapman seems to be returning to pitcher he was at the beginning of the season.
Expectations for second half:
The Yankees are surely hoping that Chapman’s return will help to stabilize their bullpen. Dellin Betances is still as good as ever but that’s about it. Adam Warren is hurt and Tyler Clippard is borderline unusable these days. Chapman and Betances have not gotten much work due to injuries and the recent rash of losses so Joe Girardi should lean on them now to stabilize the back of games while he figures out the rest of the bullpen.
Although he is not normally used for more than one inning, if Chapman can pitch like the pitcher he has been for his career thus far it will be a tremendous boost to a club that is all of sudden scuffling and giving away games in the late innings.
Aroldis Chapman has been a dominant force at the end of games since his arrival in the majors. Given the amount of work he put in throughout last season’s playoffs, there was definitely cause for concern when he went down with an injury to his pitching shoulder. Although he is much more expensive now and arm injuries are troubling he seems to be returning to form. He wields an overpowering arsenal and as long as his shoulder is fully healthy, Yankee fans will likely be looking forward to him lighting up the radar gun going forward.
Article by Matt GrazianoFollow @mattgraz930