Reds left-hander Aroldis Chapman made his first major league appearance Saturday since landing on the disabled list on May 15 due to a mix of shoulder inflammation and general ineffectiveness. And the outing couldn’t have gone any better.
According to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, the Cuban-born phenom struck out the side in a perfect ninth inning to help the Reds secure a 10-5 interleague victory over the Orioles.
Reds manager Dusty Baker told reporters after the game that “Chapman appears to be back,” and it certainly looked that way. The 23-year-old struck out O’s catcher Matt Wieters on three straight pitches to start the inning, hitting 101 mph with a fastball to close out the at-bat. Chapman then carved up the free-swinging Mark Reynolds and light-hitting infielder Robert Andino. He needed just 12 pitches in all, and only three of those deliveries were balls.
Chapman was highly inconsistent on his lengthy 30-day minor league rehab assignment, so to suggest that all his troubles are behind him would be far too reactionary. But the early signs are most definitely promising.
If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.
While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.
The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.
A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.
A great read and a great history lesson.