Tha Sports Junkies 101

Aroldis Chapman – Cubs Closer

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Aroldis Chapman has solidified the Cubs bullpen and helped Chicago win their first pennant since 1945

Aroldis Chapman is the hardest thrower in the game of baseball. He has a fastball that he can throw anywhere from 99-105 MPH while mixing in an 88-90 MPH slider. In 2010, Chapman set the MLB record for fastest pitch ever thrown in a baseball game when he hurled a fastball 105.1 MPH against the San Diego Padres. On July 19th, 2016, he matched that record with a fastball thrown to Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy.

Chapman’s career began in 2010 when the Cincinnati Reds signed him to a 6-year contract. He appeared in 15 games for the Reds in 2010 and worked 13.1 innings. In that abbreviated amount of work, Chapman struck out 19 batters and had a 2.08 ERA. His workload increased the following seasons as he appeared in 54 games in 2011, 68 games in 2012 and 2013, 54 games in 2014 and 65 games in 2015. During those seasons, Chapman struck out more than 100 batters every year and never recorded an ERA higher than 3.60.

On December 28th, 2016, the Reds traded the fire-balling lefty to the New York Yankees. Chapman did not miss a beat as he tossed 31.1 innings for the Yankees and recorded 44 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.01. He teamed up with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances to form one of the most dominant bullpens in all of baseball.

At the trade deadline, the Yankees shipped Chapman to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Andrew Warren, Gleyber Torres, and two additional prospects.

In 28 appearances for the Cubs during the 2016 season, Chapman worked 26.2 innings and recorded 46 strikeouts and a 1.01 ERA. He converted 16 saves for Chicago and did not allow a home run. Even with those greats numbers, Chapman had very little postseason experience under his belt. While with the Reds, Chapman pitched 4.2 innings in the postseason between 2010 and 2012. In that amount of work, Aroldis allowed four runs (one earned) and struck out four batters.

This year, the Cubs have asked Chapman to step outside of his comfort zone. Through Game 5 of the World Series, Chapman has recorded more than three outs in an appearance three times. To put that into perspective, Chapman done that just four times the entire regular season. One of those extended appearances came on Sunday night in Game 5 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. Cubs manager Joe Maddon brought Chapman out of the pen with one out in the 7th. The Cubs were leading the Indians 3-2, but Cleveland had the tying run on second base. Aroldis struck out the first batter he faced and got another to ground out to second to end the threat.

The eight out save by Chapman in Game 5 was the longest appearance by the closer this season. Of the 42 pitches thrown by Chapman on Sunday, 35 were fastballs. Those 35 fastballs averaged 101.2 MPH while the fastest clocked in at 103.3 MPH.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon had this to say about the long outing by Chapman:

“It’s something you can’t normally do during the season without beating somebody up too badly.”

Chapman has been great this season for the Cubs and so far this postseason. His 2.2 innings in Game 5, brought his total innings up to 13 so far this postseason. He has given up three earned runs this postseason but has also struck out 18 batters.

It is hard to say whether the Cubs would’ve been worse without Aroldis Chapman but one thing is for sure. Opposing teams will always have a hard time hitting 100+ MPH fastballs with the game on the line in the 9th. There will always be the occasional blowup by Chapman, but far less than Cubs fans have experienced from their teams closers in the past.

The Cubs are facing an uphill battle in the World Series as they trail 3-2 with the series headed back to Cleveland on Tuesday. Before their win on Sunday, the Cubs trailed in the series three games to one. History is definitely against the Cubs as the last 10 teams to be down 3-1 in the World Series have gone on to lose the series.

As the Cubs look to climb out of a deep hole, one thing is certain. Aroldis Chapman will be there to lock down the game in the 9th.