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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.

How does one go from not being able to consistently locate his pitches to suddenly being able to pound the strike zone as Chapman has done?  Let’s look at a few things.

Release point

From our friends at BrooksBaseball.net, we see little has changed with Chapman’s release point. His vertical release point is identical to where it has been in the past while his horizontal is only slightly different than it was in the past.

Pitch Usage

According to the same data set, Chapman’s career pitch type usage and outcomes have broken down as such:

PITCH

FREQ

MPH

BALL

STRIKE

SWINGS

WHIFF

IN PLAY

Four-Seamer

82%

98.5

38%

16%

45%

14%

12%

Slider

17%

87.8

45%

14%

40%

23%

9%

Chapman has only thrown five other pitches during games which were not fastballs or sliders, two of which have come this season. Here is the data for the 2012:

PITCH

FREQ

MPH

BALL

STRIKE

SWINGS

WHIFF

IN PLAY

Four-Seamer

83%

96.7

32%

18%

50%

20%

15%

Slider

16%

88.1

52%

14%

34%

17%

7%

Splitter

1%

92.3

67%

0

40%

0

50%

This season, Chapman has given up a touch of velocity and has gained a touch more of control on his fastball; he is throwing it in the strike zone more often than ever has before and has seen a significant jump in his swing-and-miss rate on the pitch.

Delivery

The slowed-down animated gifs below are from August 2011 and late last week.

Two things to take note of in the clips: the change in the start and the finish of his delivery. In 2011, his feet started on a parallel line as he began his move toward the plate. This season, he starts with a more open stance as he sets up at the mound and begins his approach to the plate.  The finish in his delivery has changed as well. In 2011, Chapman’s finish was rather violent, falling off the mound toward third base after delivering his pitch. His 2012 finish, however, is much more controlled and leaves him more centered on the mound from start to finish.

It is impossible to overlook someone that has 32 strikeouts and two walks in 17 innings of work since the beginning of March. His role is the only thing that is limiting him in fantasy leagues right now; he is not starting nor is he closing… at least not yet. It is tough to see how the Reds could leave this talent in fantasy purgatory all season, especially when parts of their starting rotation, such as Mike Leake and Homer Bailey, are off to very slow starts.