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Entries in Aroldis Chapman (7)


Chapman, Marshall a Dominant High-Low Duo

Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall are both left-handed Reds relievers dominating in 2012, ranking in the top ten among 'pen arms in Wins Above Replacement and punching out more than six batters for every free pass issued. Aside from that, however, the two don't have much in common.

Chapman has record-setting heat that he uses more than 80% of the time. Marshall barely gets above 90 MPH with his fastball, using it less than a third  while breaking off lots of curveballs and sliders. Chapman lets his sublime stuff ride high in the strike zone, while the Marshall Plan stops the spread of base runners by pounding hitters at the knees.

Take a look at Chapman's pitch location this season:

Chapman's pitch location, 2012


Chapman lives in the upper third, throwing the highest percentage of pitches up in the zone (42%) of any qualified relief pitcher. And, as Chapman's opponent slugging percentage by pitch location shows, hitters aren't touching those high pitches:


Hitters are slugging .085 against Chapman's high pitches this season, compared to the .347 average for relievers. That's fourth-best among relievers, behind Craig Kimbrel (who hasn't given up a single hit on a high pitch yet), Steve Cishek and Jim Miller. Congratulations, Josh Willingham: your June 24 homer on a 97 MPH fastball is the only extra-base hit on a high pitch against Chapman this season.

While Chapman is all about the high heat, Marshall goes low:

Marshall's pitch location, 2012


Marshall has thrown 43% of his pitches down in the zone, above the 41-42% average for relievers. When Marshall keeps the ball low, hitters head back to the dugout:

Marshall's opponent slugging percentage by location, 2012


Opponents are slugging .231 against Marshall's low stuff, more than 70 points below the MLB average for relievers.

High heat, low breaking stuff -- Chapman and Marshall couldn't be more different in terms of approach. The results are the same, though -- quick outs and Reds wins.


Aroldis Chapman on Target

Right now, Aroldis Chapman is scary. And not scary in the "might decapitate some dude in the third row" way that he was last season. The lefty with the turbo fastball has stepped up with Ryan Madson out following Tommy John surgery, striking out fifteen batters in eight innings pitched. Perhaps more importantly, Chapman hasn't given up a single walk after issuing 7.4 BB/9 in 2011.

Chapman has made grown men with immaculate reflexes look like late-inning beer league softball players by pounding the strike zone with his fastball. His velocity is "down" a tick, but he's hitting his spots and inducing swings and misses like no other reliever in the game:

Aroldis Chapman's fastball

YearFastball Zone Pct.Fastball Miss Pct.Velocity
2011 45.3 31.2 98.1
2012 67.9 47.6 97.1
Avg. RP 51.9 18.2 91.6 (for LHP)


Chapman's fastball zone percentage is fourth-highest among MLB relievers, behind just Javy Guerra, Fernando Salas and Greg Holland. And no other 'pen arm comes close to Chapman in whiffs: Kelvin Herrera (36%) is a distant second in fastball miss percentage.  

In 2011, Chapman often missed to his glove side and high out of the zone with his fastball...

Chapman's fastball location, 2011

Early on in 2012, however, Chapman has pelted hitters with high fastballs catching the plate: 

Chapman's fastball location, 2012

Opponents are a combined 2-for-20 against Chapman's fastball in 2012. Props to Jose Reyes, the only batter to get an extra-base hit on a Chapman heater (he tripled back on April 8).

Chapman's game revolves around his fastball, which he has thrown nearly three-quarters of the time. But he has also done a better job of locating his slider and changeup in 2012 (65 Zone%) than in 2011 (37%). It's only mid-April. But there might not be a harder late-inning assignment right now than squaring up Chapman.


Chapman's Starter To-Do List

Considered the best amateur pitching prospect available this side of Stephen Strasburg a few years back, Reds lefty Aroldis Chapman enters a pivotal season in 2012. The Cuban defector armed with triple-digit velocity has whiffed 90 batters out of the bullpen in 63.1 MLB innings, but a total lack of control (46 walks) and a shoulder injury last season leave him lacking innings and polish.

Now, the Reds must decide whether to deploy their $30.5 million investment in the 'pen or take the more patient approach by letting the 24-year-old Chapman develop as a starter. While Cincy's offseason moves -- trading a total of seven youngsters for Mat Latos and Sean Marshall, and signing Ryan Madson -- were made to win now, ESPN's Jim Bowden thinks the Reds should send Chapman to start at Triple-A (Insider subscription required):

In order to develop his off-speed stuff and refine his command, he needs innings. Remember, his 101 mph fastball is supplemented only by an inconsistent slider, which at times can be devastating but he doesn’t have command in the zone. He had a forkball when he pitched in Cuba and a changeup he rarely uses. Therefore, to eventually earn the $30.5 million he’s being paid, starting in Triple-A and getting the innings to refine those secondary pitches could be the best thing for him and the Reds.

Personally, I agree with Bowden. The Reds could let Chapman keep flinging fastballs in the seventh inning, hoping he'd overpower hitters enough to compensate for all of the free passes,  but there's more long-term value in Chapman as a starter. Here's a to-do list for Chapman if he does start 2012 in the Louisville rotation instead of the Cincy bullpen:

Keep his second-half form

Chapman's control was disastrous before his DL trip in mid-May and stint in the minors, locating just 37% of his pitches within the strike zone. The lefty missed wide to the glove side often:

Chapman's pitch location, April and May 2011Upon his recall in late June, however, Chapman put his nasty stuff in the strike zone 46% of the time. Even the pitches that weren't technically in the strike zone were awfully close:

Chapman's pitch location, June-September 2011

Chapman's improved control led to more pitcher's counts and more swings from batters. Before his DL stint, Chapman induced hitters to swing 37% of the time and got strikes 54%. After his recall, opponents swung 46% of the time and Chapman got strikes 62%.

Develop his secondary stuff

Everyone knows that Chapman possesses a killer fastball. His heater, averaging 98.1 mph and registering a record 103.4 mph at its most sizzling, made hitters miss 31% of the time they offered at it. Vinnie Pestano, Tyler Clippard, Jonathan Papelbon and Craig Kimbrel were the only relievers with a higher fastball miss rate.

But that was the only pitch in his arsenal. He threw the fastball about 79% of the time, rarely going to an errant upper-80s slider and low-90s changeup:

PitchPct. ThrownZone Pct.MLB Avg. for RP
Slider 16 41 46
Changeup 5 25 39


Chapman's zone percentage with his fastball improved dramatically after his recall (48% after, 37% before), but it stayed the same with his slider (41% after, 41% before) and declined on his changeup (20% after, 29% before). A dominant, whiff-tastic fastball goes a long way, but he'll need more than one pitch to survive MLB lineups multiple times.

Build up innings 

Between the majors and the minors, Chapman threw all of 63 innings in 2011. It may take a couple of years to fully stretch him out, but it will be worth it if he can eventually post an above-average ERA while tossing 150+ MLB frames. Even if the Reds pull the plug sometime this year, at least the starting experiment will have given him the chance to work on his secondary pitches and become a more well-rounded reliever.