2018 Pinstripe Preview: Aroldis Chapman
The Yankees bullpen has been a strength of their team in recent years and thanks to some great work by Brian Cashman last season, the group got even stronger. Although the new faces played an important role in the team’s success down the stretch and in the playoffs some familiar faces remained, led by flame throwing closer Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is entering the second season of his five-year deal with the team and although he had an up and down season plagued by injury and inconsistency, he was eventually able to regain his form and lead the group down the stretch last season. We do not know how Aaron Boone will deploy this Yankee bullpen but it would be a huge boost to the club if he could remain healthy and consistent all season. When he is right, he is electric and one of the best in baseball but heading into this season, which Aroldis Chapman will the Yankees get?
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Chapman got off to a good start for the season, allowing just one run in 10 April appearances and converting his first seven save opportunities but the wheels started to come off in May. After allowing three runs and three hits while blowing a save on May 7th, Chapman allowed three more hits and a run a few days later before being placed on the DL with shoulder inflammation on May 13th. He was activated from the DL on June 18th and was mostly good until mid-August. On August 11th he notched a save but allowed a run and three walks in the process. Chapman would go on to allow runs in four consecutive appearances while watching his ERA balloon all the way to 4.29. Joe Girardi demoted him from the closers role so that he could figure out his struggles in less pressure filled situations, which he eventually did. After allowing eight runs and six walks in August, Chapman did not allow a run and walked just two while striking out 17 batters and notching six saves in September. Chapman’s resurgence played a key role for a Yankee team that gained momentum down the stretch and carried it through the playoffs.
Overall for the season he pitched to a 3.22 ERA with 22 saves in 50.1 innings over 52 appearances. For the postseason, he allowed just one run and two walks over eight innings while striking out 16. While the struggles and the injuries he endured in 2017 are concerning, Chapman was able to rebound nicely. Hopefully he can take that momentum into this coming season.
After his up and down season in 2017, the first thing we should hope for in 2018 is health. Although a shoulder injury is concerning, there was no structural damage and for someone who throws as hard as he does, Chapman has remained remarkably healthy throughout his career. We can only hope that good luck continues. With all the depth the Yankees have in the pen, they should have no problem keeping him fresh throughout the season. As long as that happens the performance should be as good as it has been for most of his career. Although his ERA was over three last season, it has only been that high for one other season of his career and it was inflated due to a handful of bad appearances. Most of his other numbers were in line with his career norms and that should continue.
If he can regain his consistency we will likely see a season with an ERA around two and 35-40 saves. With this Yankee offense he will probably have plenty of opportunities to pitch with a lead. For years, Chapman has been one of the most exciting pitchers in baseball. Although he had some hiccups last year, I’d bet that we’ll be seeing that electric fastball dominate hitters again this season.
Article by Matt GrazianoFollow @mattgraz930