Aroldis Chapman wants to close

20 Comments

Perhaps the biggest debate of the off-season, at least after the AL MVP award was handed out, was the benefit or detriment of the Reds’ desire to move Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation. Chapman, behind a high-90’s fastball, finished the 2012 season with a 1.51 ERA and 38 saves. However, the Reds signed Jonathan Broxton, giving them the flexibility to push Chapman into the rotation.

Here’s the latest wrench in the whole debacle. Chapman says he wants to close, according to Danny Knobler:

What was perhaps most interesting about the day was how strongly Chapman spoke when asked what he wants the Reds’ decision to be.

“I would like to be a closer, but that’s not in my hands,” Chapman said.

General manager Walt Jocketty and pitching coach Bryan Price have favored making Chapman a starter, while Baker has been considered the strongest advocate of leaving him in the bullpen.

The Reds are expected to decide in the next few days what Chapman’s role in 2013 will be, closing or starting. He tossed four innings in his most recent spring training outing, but his spring training use is no indicator of his regular season use as he was worked as a starter last spring as well.

No one pounds the zone anymore

Getty Images
4 Comments

“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.