What makes Aroldis Chapman factoids powerful is that each one is two factoids at once. They are about Chapman's superiority over the rest of his peers. And they are about the changing sport of baseball. Many factoids accomplish one of these things, but Chapman's factoids come from both directions and erupt all over you. Not so much like a garbage bag full of Nickelodeon slime, but more like, if you follow the analogy, two garbage bags full of Nickelodeon slime.
The first episode of BP's new daily podcast is ready for your ears, if your ears are ready for it.
After months of deliberation and well-intentioned procrastination, we've gotten the Effectively Wild podcast off the ground. Between Up and In and Tower of Power, BP is already well stocked with weekly podcasts, so we're trying to do something different: a much shorter podcast that appears much more often. Each time out, we'll pick an interesting topic or two from the previous night's news and action to discuss in depth, and with any luck, we'll wrap up the episode in around 10 minutes. The goal is to deliver new episodes daily (well, Monday through Friday) in time for your morning commute. We're figuring this out as we go, so suggestions and feedback are welcome. And yes, Ben knows that he called Zach BrittonChris Britton. He can't help it—he's been calling him Chris for years. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Sam said "douchebag" at some point, so we suppose this is explicit.
Aroldis Chapman allowed an earned run, but it didn't happen the way we expected it would.
Last night, Aroldis Chapman allowed an earned run, after 29 innings of allowing no earned runs and striking out almost every other batter he faced. This was a stimulus that caused at least three responses. First, and maybe most obviously, it made the Reds lose to a team only two games behind them.*
As it turns out, Aroldis Chapman is capable of giving up runs, even to the mortalest of mortals.
The Thursday Takeaway
Somehow, some way, somewhere, someday, someone was going to plate an earned run against Aroldis Chapman. But if I had told you that it would be the Pirates—and not just any Pirates, but the two Pirates with the lowest batting averages in that day’s Pirates starting lineup—you might have questioned my sanity.
The Reds’ relief ace came into last night’s game with a flawless 0.00 ERA in 29 innings. He had allowed only one extra-base hit—a triple by Jose Reyes—all season, and the only blemish on his line was an unearned run scored by the Mets on May 17. Manager Dusty Baker called on his undefeated, 24-year-old flame-thrower in the top of the 10th inning, after Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan served up a game-tying solo shot by Ryan Ludwick in the bottom of the ninth.
Drops in fastball velocity usually lead to spikes in ERA, but a handful of pitchers have made slower fastballs work for them this year.
There’s more to being a major-league pitcher than throwing hard. Plenty of pitchers have had successful careers without making the mitt pop. On the whole, though, throwing hard helps. All else being equal, the harder a pitcher can throw, the more effective his offerings are, and the easier it is for him to get away with mistakes. It’s no coincidence that the team with the hardest-throwing staff this season, the Nationals, also boasts the big leagues’ best ERA.
In a 2010 study, PITCHf/x analyst Mike Fast found that starting pitchers from 2002-2009 allowed, on average, 0.28 fewer runs per nine innings for every mile per hour of velocity gained. Relievers, who tend to rely more heavily on their heaters, shaved 0.45 runs for every extra tick.
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Bryce Harper, at 19, has faced four of the best strikeout pitchers in history. Here's how he has done.
I was lying on the floor Saturday, throwing a pen up in the air and catching it, and wondering when Bryce Harper would face Clayton Kershaw so I could watch it. Typical Saturday stuff. And it occurred to me: Kershaw? Who cares about Kershaw? He’s the best pitcher in the National League, sure, but Kershaw over seven innings isn’t nearly as dominant as the most dominant relievers are in just one inning. Even without facing Kershaw, Bryce Harper has faced almost-impossible pitching in the majors. The five pitchers Harper has faced with the highest strikeout rates this year:
Dusty Baker feels that Aroldis Chapman's best use right now is as Cincinnati's closer, and a conversation with Jesus Montero.
When Sparky Lyle strode from the bullpen the mound at Yankee Stadium during his days as a premier relief pitches in the mid- to late 1970s, organist Eddie Layton would play "Pomp and Circumstance." That probably wouldn't work as a ballpark song these days, but to hear Dusty Baker tell it, perhaps the traditional graduation accompaniment should be played on the sound system at Great American Ball Park when Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman takes the hill.
A look at Chapman's 2012 success and what has made the difference
In hindsight, maybe spring training stats do mean something. Aroldis Chapman turned heads in Arizona when he struck out 18 batters while walking just two in 17 innings of work, but it’s not as if no one has turned heads in March only to turn stomachs in April. Chapman, however, took his talents north with him to Cincinnati, pitching eight dominating innings this season while allowing just three hits, not allowing a run or a walk, and striking out 15 batters. Do the quick math and you get 32 strikeouts and two walks in 25 innings of work from a guy who walked 41 batters in 50 innings of work last season.
Presenting the three filthiest pitches from the first week of the season.
If you followed any games last season on MLB.com’s Gameday application, you saw “Nasty Factor,” which assigned a number to each pitch based on its perceived nastiness. If you have followed any games this season on Gameday, you’ve seen “Scout,” which describes the action like this: “Sergio Romo is having trouble locating his four-seam fastball” and so on. We’re about to watch the three best pitches* thrown in the first week of the season, and, frankly, Nasty Factor and Scout can’t do these pitches justice. So enjoy the moving pictures, and then read the expert analysis provided by some MLB.com apps that are still in development.
How valuable must relief innings be to justify converting a starter?
Everybody loves a conversion project, as long as "conversion project" means "turning a reliever into a starter." Why not take a closer like Neftali Feliz and, as long as he possesses the arsenal to handle the move, assign him a position that allows the team to squeeze significantly more innings from his arm? Closers come from the Rule 5 draft, from the independent leagues, and from every other possible route into the big leagues. Competent starters, though, are rare and wondrous beasts. If you have a Feliz, someone who had success as a starter in the minors, it would be folly not to at least consider the possibility of pushing him into the rotation.
For the same reasons, everybody hates "wasting" a starter in the bullpen. If Aroldis Chapman was supposed to be a starter from the day he arrived on these shores, why on earth does Dusty Baker think losing Ryan Madson to injury means that Chapman should move back into relief? Do the Astros really need Brett Myers to close when Houston might not take 25 savable leads into the ninth inning all season? We complain about this on a smaller scale, too: when Alfredo Aceves was named Boston's closer in the absence of Andrew Bailey, the thought that Aceves's multi-inning arm would be wasted in a one-frame role bugged a lot of us.