Losing Michael King was a devastating blow to the New York Yankees bullpen, but it wouldn’t have been such a significant problem if future Hall of Fame closer, Aroldis Chapman, was playing to expectations.
Chapman has been a shell of himself this season, featuring a career-worst 5.75 ERA over 20.1 innings. Hosting 10.62 strikeouts per nine, 1.77 home runs per nine, a 73.9% left on base rate, and a measly 34.5% ground ball rate, his numbers are simply awful.
By all accounts, Chapman is struggling to a degree that he’s never experienced. The Yankees are desperately trying to get him right, but his best days may be simply behind him, despite his velocity remaining adequate.
“He’s struggling right now, but the equipment is all there,’’ Cashman said, per Dan Martin of the New York Post. “He’s gonna continue to get his chances. We’ve got to get him online. He’s certainly got all the ability in the world.”
Chapman is utilizing his 4-seam fastball and slider as his primary two pitches. However, his slider has lost all efficiency, with opposing batters hitting .308 against it. Historically, his slider has been his best pitch, with batters hitting .173 off it in 2021. His 4-seam fastball, despite averaging out at 97.5 mph, almost one mph down from the 2021 average, is generating a .176 BA.
The problem with Chapman’s fastball is that he simply can’t locate it. Trying to throw hard has decreased his accuracy substantially.
“The bottom line is we’ve got to get him right,’’ manager Aaron Boone said. “The encouraging sign is we see physical things that suggest he can do it. Now it’s a matter of getting there. His confidence has taken a little bit of a hit.”
The Yankees may have to decide that Chapman is a lost cause:
Chapman is coming off Achilles tendinitis that could still be bothering him to a degree. However, Cashman and Boone both seem to think he should be performing better and isn’t being held back by physical limitations.
With the Yankees eyeing a World Series this year, they need their future Hall of Fame closer to make an impact in a positive way. They can’t rely on Clay Holmes to shoulder the load forever without giving him a chance to mitigate fatigue.
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At the very least, Chapman needs to offer support as a setup man for Holmes. Over the past few weeks, Aroldis has proven he can’t be relied on, recording a 9.95 ERA this month, giving up four earned runs in his last 2.1 innings.
At this point, saving money off his contract would be far more beneficial than force-feeding him innings to try and correct his deficiencies. The Yankees would only save some cash IF another team scooped him up off the market. Chapman is earning $18 million this season in base salary.
You could make a strong argument that his roster spot is the most valuable aspect. Chapman is simply taking up a roster spot to pitch poorly. While he’s a proven commodity over a larger sample size, he’s clearly dealing with something significant and may not be able to offer his usual efficiency.
With only a few days left until the trade deadline, the Yankees need to know if they can rely on Chapman moving forward. After two consecutive months of awful pitching displays, they may have to make a tough decision.