Because the let’s-take-a-young-starter-and-turn-him-into-a-reliever trend is one of the latest windmills at which I like to tilt, I got all upset last month when the Reds said that they were converting Aroldis Chapman into a relief pitcher.
Maybe I won’t need to worry about it, though, because John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that — early progress notwithstanding — the experiment is not going so well. Chapman is 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA since the move to bullpen. According to Fay, three of his seven
outings have been “ugly.” At the same time, the Reds’ bullpen has become less of a concern than it was a month ago. Yes, they could use an arm, but not one that has to learn on the job like Chapman.
So, the most important thing to watch as far as Chapman goes these days is not when he’ll be called up to the big club, but when the big club will let him go back to being a starter so he can develop like a proper young studly prospect should.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.