After striking out two over a scoreless inning in yesterday’s win over the Cubs, Aroldis Chapman has now worked nine scoreless innings in six relief appearances this season. Given that the Reds considered using him as a starter during spring training, this is a pretty appropriate time to look at his overall numbers. And yes, they are nothing short of fantastic.
Chapman has allowed just three hits (two singles and a triple) and no walks. It’s a stunning turnaround for someone who averaged 7.4 BB/9 last year and didn’t go more than five consecutive appearances without issuing a walk. Equally impressive, he has fanned 17 of the 30 batters he has faced this year, which means he has a strikeout percentage of 56.7 percent. Granted, we’re talking about a small sample size here, but Dodgers’ reliever Kenley Jansen led the majors with a 44 percent strikeout percentage last year.
Chapman has averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball, down a couple ticks from what we’ve seen in the past, but sacrificing a little heat has clearly done wonders for his command. And with a swinging strike rate of 21.5 percent, his fastball and hard-biting slider are still plenty good enough to put batters away.
As for Chapman finally getting his chance as a starter, well, nothing appears imminent. Mike Leake and Homer Bailey are the most vulnerable to get the boot, but they’ll likely get a handful of starts before any changes are made, especially with set-up man Nick Masset still on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury. Bailey, who is out of options, allowed four runs (one earned) over seven innings yesterday and has a 3.86 ERA over his first three starts. Leake, who will start today against the Cubs, has allowed eight runs in 12 1/3 innings (5.84 ERA) over his first two starts.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo has an interesting report today. MLB and Rawlings are developing a new baseball. It will have a tacky surface on the leather, allowing pitchers to get a better grip without having to resort to sunscreen and rosin and pine tar and stuff. Substances which, in theory, are for grip but which are really used by pitchers to doctor the ball, with MLB and opposing hitters mostly looking the other way.
They tested the new balls in the Arizona Fall League last year and Passan talks to a couple of the pitchers who used the ball. More testing would be required, though, so we’re not likely to see the new balls until at least 2018.
As you know, baseball players love change, so I’m sure we won’t hear another thing about the ball and its introduction will go off seamlessly.
Wait. It’ll still have seams. You know what I mean.
The first few days of spring training have been pretty quiet. Guys are going about their business and games are being played, but we haven’t had any news or controversy or silliness or anything fun like that. That’s about to change, however, as Tim Tebow has arrived at Mets camp.
Tebow, a non-roster invite, arrived at the Mets facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida this morning and, unlike every other non-roster invite, had a press conference. You may be surprised to learn that he’s in great shape, is excited to get going and wants to improve steadily each day.
The plan for Tebow is to be a part of the minor league camp, not the major league one, so he’s not going to be as visible at workouts as you might expect. He will be playing in some major league spring training games, however, at least until we get deeper into spring training, after which you’d assume that veterans and players with a real shot of making the big club will play longer.
In the meantime, you can buy Tebow shirts. But not Curtis Granderson ones, it seems: