Reds Find Useful Role For Chapman

The Reds’ plans for Aroldis Chapman‘s role on the team have never really appeared to be fully fleshed out. First he was supposed to be a starter, but then team needs for the 2010 playoff run required another reliever. The opportunity to move him back into the rotation has never been seized since, and although there was much discussion of Chapman as the Reds’ fifth starter this season, he’s remained in the bullpen for the entire year. Starting remains an option for 24-year-old, and probably the best one for the team. If the Reds are going to keep Chapman in the bullpen, however, his usage so far this season serves as excellent blueprint.

Chapman has arguably been the best pitcher in baseball this season, particulary on a per-inning basis. Only a few other flamethrowing relievers, like the Yankees’ David Robertson and the White Sox’ Addison Reed have put up comparable numbers across the board. But Chapman may be the most impressive so far: he owns a spotless ERA, has struck out 21 batters against just nine baserunners (five hits, four walks), and he owns seven shutdowns without a meltdown and the top WPA among relievers in the league.

Chapman’s performance in any setup-type role would probably put him at or near the top of the WPA leaderboard, but Dusty Baker has done an excellent job of saving the most important situations for his best pitcher this season. Of Chapman’s nine appearances, six have come with at least a 1.0 average leverage index; three times that number has been at 1.98 or above. He’s pitched two innings on three occasions. By and large, outside of two games — 4/20 and 4/28 — where he needed work after a multiple-day layoff, the Reds have been using him in their most important situations or to cover multiple innings, starting in the seventh or the ninth or in extras depending on need.

The result may be a lower average leverage index (pLI) than relievers like Sean Marshall and Logan Ondrusek, but this is partially because Chapman has been so good as to avoid ultra high-leverage situations. Chapman has only allowed mutliple baserunners in an inning twice and only 16 times out of 47 batters faced has he dealt with runners on base. Chapman leads the team in entrance leverage index and inning-starting leverage index — he’s being used to prevent the fires in situations before the even start.

The Goose Gossage-type fireman hasn’t existed in the majors for a few years now, but if there was a solid candidate to revive it this season, Aroldis Chapman might be it. He is clearly one of the team’s most talented arms — probably the single most talented — and he needs to be used in a way that impacts the game more than the typical middle reliever. By picking his spots and using Chapman in the most crucial of situations, Dusty Baker has allowed Chapman to do just that so far in 2012.

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21 Responses to “Reds Find Useful Role For Chapman”

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  1. Richie says:

    Saying Dusty has done something correct. Always knew you were one of them there Communists!

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    • chuckb says:

      And as it relates to pitchers, too. Down is up; right is left; What the hell is the world coming to?

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    • Cidron says:

      Saying that Dusty did something correct, WITH THE PITCHING staff is even more amazing !!

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    • Johnny Come Lately says:

      I thought it was Chapman that was the Communist

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    • MikeS says:

      Even a blind chicken picks up a little corn every now and then.

      Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll move him into the closer role so he can protect three run leads against the 6, 7 and 8 hitter any day now.

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  2. Wavaw says:

    It was my hope that Bochy could have run his bullpen like this last season with Sergio Romo’s 1.5 xFIP. The irony that it would be Dusty Baker of all mangers to find the best use for his best reliever is scalding.

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  3. sportsczar says:

    I so very badly wanted to be the first to poke fun at Dusty’s bullpen mgmt. in this thread. As a Cardinals fan, I love that he stayed in the division when he left Chicago. BUT…I will give credit where it is due. Chapman has been electric in the two situations I have seen him. Whether Dusty is using him intentionally as described or not, as you point out, he sure seems to be doing it right.

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  4. payroll says:

    Give the man a shot in the rotation!

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  5. shthar says:


    Make me feel even worse for not having him.

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  6. Mike P says:

    What? Dusty is an idiot. He is probably the best pitcher on the team. Yet he is using him as a middle reliever. Chapman pitched very well in spring training as a starter and Dusty wussed out by putting him in the pen and people here are lauding him for it? If Davey Johnson had decided at the end of spring training that he didn’t want to put too much strain on Strasburg’s arm so he was moving him to middle relief the blogosphere would have spontaneously combusted from all of the vitriol heaped upon him. Think about it people.

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    • gweedoh565 says:

      Mike P., I think you are willfully ignoring the circumstances dictating Chapman’s current role (bullpen injuries to Bray, Madson, Masset; all starters except Leake w/out options and pitching relatively well) just to hoot and holler from the never-ending “Dusty is an idiot” bandwagon.

      Find a new punching bag/scape-goat already.

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      • radicalhenri says:

        plus, strasburg had shown dominance before, all we’ve seen from chapman up to this point has been great stuff, but awful control.

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  7. MBP says:


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  8. Governator says:

    Alexi Ogando: 8 SD to 1 MD, 13.4% SwStr, pLi of 1.40, 6 baserunners out of 43 BF, 29 FIP-

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  9. Us, the viewing audience, are spoiled:

    Robertson’s got a 34 inning scoreless streak going if you include the postseason.
    Chapman’s got a .75 FIP.
    Reed is yet to give up a run in his career.

    Who do you think’s the first to give up a run?

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  10. KerryHofmeister says:

    I feel like this outstanding use of Chapman was done by accident. Too good to be true.

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  11. Peter says:

    Once management puts a guy like Chapman in the bullpen, no matter how he performs it will “prove” that they made the right decision.

    If he is effective in a relief role: “Look how he’s thriving as a reliever! And look how much value he’s given us out of the bullpen! Guess we made the right call.”

    If he struggles in a relief role: “Look how he’s struggling, he must still have some things to work on before he’s ready to be a starter. It looks like we made the right decision putting him in the bullpen!”

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    • Jason says:

      You have a point, you can never know how things would have turned out if a different decision on bullpen/starter is made, and it will be spun as a good decision in either scenario you brought up. However, the focus of the article was not that the decision was good or bad, but that even though people get hung up on starters or closers having a monopoly on pitching importance, careful use of Chapman is still providing good value.

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    • astrostl says:


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  12. AA says:

    David Roberts is David Robertson’s Johan Santa.

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  13. Matthew Reed says:

    I think that Chapman’s best place would be in the rotation. However, the idea that he’s the genuine ‘saver’ of games, coming in when the game needs legitimate rescuing, is intriguing. I’ve always hated that the statistic of ‘save’ is the tail that wags the dog of the bullpen.

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