New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has been anything but lights out lately, and it may be time to consider other options for the ninth inning.
Last year, despite missing 45 games to due a suspension, Chapman had one of his best seasons in the majors while splitting time with the Yankees and the Cubs. Chapman converted 36 of his 39 save opportunities, struck out 90 batters in 58 innings and owned a WHIP of 0.862. Opposing batters hit just .158 against him.
This year, those numbers have cratered. Batters are seeing the ball much better, hitting .229 against him, and his ERA has ballooned to 3.89 along with an inflated WHIP of 1.327 and his strikeouts per nine innings has dipped to a career-low 12.7. He has already blown four saves this season.
Usually, his fastball, even at 102 mph, has movement on it, meaning that even when there is contact, the ball stays in the park. Recently, he has only been able to command one pitch a night, either his slider or fastball. His lack of control has led to blown save opportunities and shaky appearances. Once as sure as they come in the closer role now he leaves fans biting their teeth.
After a long stint on the disabled list this year, Chapman was given a chance to work his way back to form. His form from last year however has not returned. After throwing 46 pitches over a three-game series with the Red Sox, Chapman was unable to pitch Monday night in a close game with the Mets. Set up man Dellin Betances was used as the closer and allowed just one hit en route to converting his seventh save of the season. Chapman would return to his ninth inning role last night and while he did ultimately get the save, it wasn’t until after he allowed two runs off of a pair of hits and walks.
August has been a particularly brutal month for Chapman. Batters are hitting .267 against him and his ERA for the month sits at 10.68 in 4 ⅓ innings of work. He allowed his first two home runs of the season and has struck out just five batters while walking four.
Considering the Yankees depth in the bullpen, which includes two other viable closers in Betances and the recently re-acquired David Robertson, there’s no reason to give every Yankee fan agita when the ninth inning rolls around. Chapman isn’t getting the job done and with the Yankees clawing for the AL East crown, it’s time to consider a closer by committee.
There’s also the chance that Chapman may be injured. Following last night’s game, Chapman admitted that he is feeling some tightness in his right hamstring and although he claimed that there was “nothing to worry about,” it could certainly explain his recent ineffectiveness. If the injury isn’t serious, perhaps some rest is needed. A short stint on the 10-day disabled list could help.
At the end of the day, Chapman is the Yankees closer, but that position only means something when you are effective. Giving Chapman time off to heal can work wonders and make hopefully bring him back to form for a September push.