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.