While 2009 No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg is set to throw his first pitch in a Nationals uniform on Tuesday, Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman made his Cactus League debut earlier this afternoon.
Appearing in relief of Bronson Arroyo, Chapman tossed two scoreless frames, allowing only one hit while striking out three. 15 of his 26 pitches were thrown for strikes. But what will really have people talking is the supposed velocity of those pitches.
According to this report by Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today, Chapman’s heater reached as high as 102 mph during the contest, while he struck out Chris Getz looking on a 100-mph fastball. I’m a bit skeptical until I see more data, but as Keith Law of ESPN.com perfectly summed up following his outing:
Two word scouting report on Aroldis Chapman: That’ll work.
I’m not sure how much we can glean from a two inning appearance, but Chapman shouldn’t be discounted from starting the season with the big club. Not yet, anyway. We’ve heard Dusty Baker can’t wait to work with him.
Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Marlins pitcher Dan Straily has been suspended five games and Don Mattingly one game for throwing intentionally at Giants catcher Buster Posey on Tuesday in San Francisco. Straily plans to appeal his suspension, so he will be allowed to take his normal turn through the rotation until that matter is settled.
Everything started on Monday, when the Marlins rallied in the ninth inning against closer Hunter Strickland. That included a game-tying single from Lewis Brinson, who pumped his fist and yelled in celebration. Strickland took exception, jawing at Brinson who was on third base when the right-hander was taken out of the game. Strickland went into the clubhouse and punched a door, breaking his hand.
The next day, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez hit Brinson with a fastball, which prompted warnings for both teams. The next inning, Straily hit Posey on the arm with a fastball, which led to immediate ejections for both him and Mattingly.
Neither Rodriguez nor Giants manager Bruce Bochy were reprimanded, which is ludicrous because it was plainly obvious Rodriguez was throwing at Brinson. But neither team had been issued warnings. Essentially, Major League Baseball is giving free reign for teams to get their revenge pitches in. Furthermore, Straily’s five-game suspension is hardly a deterrent for throwing at a hitter. The Marlins could simply give Straily an extra day of rest and it’s like he was never suspended at all.
Beanball wars are bad for baseball. It puts players at risk for obvious reasons. When players have to miss time due to avoidable injury, self-inflicted (in the case of Strickland) or not (if, for example, Posey had a hand or wrist broken from Straily’s pitch), the game suffers because it becomes an inferior product. That’s, of course, second behind the simple fact that throwing at a player is a tremendously childish way to handle a disagreement. When aimed intentionally at another human being, a baseball is a weapon. That’s especially true when it’s in the hands of someone who has been trained to throw anywhere from 90 to 100 MPH.
Commisioner Rob Manfred has spent a lot of time trying to make the game of baseball more appealing, such adding pitch clocks and limiting mound visits. He should spend some time addressing the throwing-at-batters problem.