Should the Phillies start Cole Hamels in Game 7?

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Cole Hamels has clarified his headline-grabbing quotes about wanting the season to be over and last night’s incident with Brett Myers may have just been an attempt at humor, but the left-hander’s 7.58 ERA this postseason still has Phillies fans questioning if he’s the right choice for a potential Game 7 start against CC Sabathia.
Charlie Manuel has already picked Pedro Martinez to start tomorrow, but an alternative would have been to give J.A. Happ the Game 6 nod and save Martinez for Game 7. While the notion of a World Series-deciding Martinez-Sabathia matchup is exciting, the Phillies obviously need to win Game 6 before there can be a Game 7 and holding Pedro back for a start that may never arrive would leave Manuel open to tons of criticism.
In other words, worry first about forcing a Game 7 and then worry about how to win a Game 7. If the Phillies win tomorrow night behind a strong outing from Martinez they can go with either Happ or Hamels in Game 7 while also having basically everyone on the pitching staff available in an all-hands-on-deck situation. That wouldn’t have been true with Happ starting Game 6 and Martinez reserved for Game 7.
Of course, the choice between Hamels or Happ is another issue entirely. Back in spring training the notion of going with Happ over Hamels in a World Series-deciding start would have seemed absolutely absurd, but it’s certainly a legitimate question at this point. During the regular season Happ was 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA compared to Hamels going 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA, and Hamels has allowed 16 runs in 19 postseason innings.
On the other hand Happ hasn’t started since Game 3 of the NLDS way back on October 11, when he gave up three runs while lasting just three innings against the Rockies. Since then he’s been used strictly as a reliever and has pitched sparingly while not being particularly effective, serving up a homer to Nick Swisher in relief of Hamels in Game 3 and allowing four of 11 batters to reach base.
There are certainly reasonable arguments to be made on all sides. However, like Manuel my choice would be Martinez starting Game 6 with everyone available for a possible Game 7 rather than the other way around, and I’d still go with Hamels over Happ with the season on the line against Sabathia. Hamels started the Phillies’ final playoff game last season and he should get a chance to do the same this year.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.