On Friday night, the New York Yankees blew a chance to gain some ground on the Boston Red Sox and Aroldis Chapman was at the forefront of the collapse.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Chapman failed to record a single out and allowed two runs to score to blow the save and the Yankees lost 5-4 at Fenway Park. Some of the inning wasn’t Chapman’s fault considering his defense didn’t get the job done.
But if you really look deep into it, is there cause for concern with the All-Star closer?
In that outing, Chapman not only failed to record a single out, he also didn’t miss any bats either and that’s something that seems to be a bit of a pattern. Since his return from the disabled list, Aroldis Chapman has been a bit predictable. His fastballs, while they still hit triple digits on the radar guns, are straight. So hitters are eventually getting the timing down to get their bat on it.
If you saw in Friday night’s game, Chapman didn’t miss many bats and it caused the Yankees defense to try to get people out. Sure, it’s Ronald Torreyes and Didi Gregorius’ job to make the plays in the field. But the Yankees are also paying Aroldis Chapman $86 million over the next five years to miss bats.
Chapman is still getting strikeouts; 34 strikeouts through 20.2 innings. But he’s also seen his ERA go from under 1.00 to almost 4 over the last two months. Chapman has a career 2.17 ERA and hasn’t had an ERA in the 3’s since 2011.
Now, he could always straighten out and get his numbers back to what everyone expects. But with each blown save and each run surrendered, the questions will start to mount. And the one in the back of people’s minds will also start to linger; did Joe Maddon overuse Aroldis Chapman in the 2016 World Series?
By the time Game 7 rolled around, Chapman was burned out to the point where he nearly surrendered the lead and the game to the Cleveland Indians. But he gutted through and didn’t surrender the lead, which spoke to his ability to pitch and get outs without his best stuff.
So if Chapman starts to trend downwards and loses his ability to get guys out, especially via the strikeout, that thought might have to be a realistic one. Because if the Cubs “ruined” Chapman in order to get the World Series, then the Yankees spent $86 million for a closer who isn’t the same guy we all know.
Aroldis Chapman used to strike fear into hitters because of his triple-digit fastball and then the overpowering slider. But if hitters can square up on him and hit him hard, then that’s going to be a problem for the Yankees and for Chapman.
For their sake, they have to hope this is just a rough patch for Chapman coming back from the disabled list and he’ll simply find his form during the season as he pitches more often. If not, the Yankees may have a serious issue on their hands with Aroldis Chapman over the next five years.