The Yankees may have to make a tough Aroldis Chapman decision

Alexander Wilson
aroldis chapman, yankees

The New York Yankees were hoping to get the best version of Aroldis Chapman upon his return from Achilles tendinitis. Chapman had been performing well during his rehabilitation assignments in the minor-league system, but he was abysmal against major league talent on Saturday in the first game of the doubleheader.

Prior to making his return, Chapman had last appeared for the Yankees on May 22 against the Chicago White Sox. In just 0.1 innings, he gave up two hits and two earned runs, blowing an opportunity for the Yankees to secure a win.

He recorded a 9.53 ERA in the month of May, giving up 11 hits and six earned runs over 5.2 innings. His location has been awful to start the 2022 campaign, having a few tumultuous outings in April despite not giving up a run but walking six matters.

Ever since Clay Holmes entered the fold as the team’s primary closer, Chapman’s position has been up in the air. Figuring out what his role will be moving forward will be interesting, especially after walking three straight batters on Saturday against Cleveland, giving up two earned runs.

“It’s just like, he’s gotta get out there and almost not think in terms of not throwing the ball but just trusting it and letting it rip and then let the results fall where they may,” Boone said between games. “I think he’s guarding against making sure he doesn’t throw a ball, and that’s similar to the mindset I talk a lot about hitters — ‘I want to get a hit,’ and that gets you in trouble. Maybe a little bit similar on the mound. But I think he’s healthy.”

The Yankees need to figure out what’s wrong with Aroldis quickly:

Whether it’s Chapman’s psyche or father time getting the best of him, he needs to find a way to revitalize his season quickly. Chapman is using his fastball 5% less than during the 2021 season, mainly because he’s seen a monster drop-off in velocity.

This year, he’s averaging 97.2 mph on his fastball, down 1.3 mph from last season. Opposing batters are hitting .217 against his fastball and .333 against his slider, which he’s throwing 30.6% of the time.  Last season, batters hit .173 against his slider, indicating a clear issue with his fundamentals and confidence.

There is not much of a difference in spin rate with his slider, but his WHIFF rate has dropped from 43.1% last season to 26.2% this season. If Chapman can’t properly throw a slider, the Yankees may have to diminish his role over the course of the season. Chapman is generating one of the lowest ground-ball rates of his entire career at 34.1%. Last season, he landed at 43.8% and has hovered in that area throughout his career, aside from the Covid abbreviated 2020 season.

Most metrics point toward a steep regression for Chapman, meaning the Yankees are lucky to have Clay Holmes to supplement the closer spot, otherwise, they’d be in big trouble. You never want to degrade the role of a future Hall of Fame player, but the Yankees can’t afford to have liabilities in the bullpen, especially against better teams. Being crushed by the Cleveland Guardians in his first assignment back certainly wasn’t ideal.