Chicago Cubs Closer Aroldis Chapman

Aroldis Chapman may be an awful human being, but the left-handed pitcher for the Chicago Cubs has been an excellent reliever since he entered Major League Baseball in 2010. His ERA in the 2016 season was 1.55 (ERA+ of 273), which is in line with his past years. As the closer for the Cubs since July 27 of 2016, he was even more dominant, with an ERA of 1.01 (ERA+ of 401) in 26.2 innings over 28 games. In the postseason to date, he has looked more mortal, allowing 3 runs over 8 innings pitched for a 3.38 ERA.

What he throws: Four-seam fastball (“FF”), slider (“SL”), and an occasional changeup (“CH”):

Pitch usage and trends: Chapman is famously the hardest thrower in the majors, regularly breaking 100 mph on his fastball and maxing out at 105.1 mph. Unsurprisingly, his four-seam fastball is by far his most common pitch (81.1% of his pitches), with his slider making up most of the remainder (15.6%). He uses his changeup (which at an average velocity of about 89.4 mph is faster than many pitchers’ fastballs) sparingly, just 3.3% of pitches:

Chapman only uses his changeup when he is ahead in the count (8.1% of pitches), and then mainly to right-handed batters. He also reduces his slider usage somewhat when behind, preferring to focus on his overpowering fastball (91.3% of pitches when behind):

Pitch value: All three of Chapman’s pitches are above average, and his fastball is among the most effective pitches in all baseball in terms of total bases allowed per 100 pitches. Somewhat remarkably, in spite of its velocity, Chapman locates the pitch well, allowing a better than average number of balls per 100 pitches:

Pitch location: The charts below show the typical locations of Chapman’s pitches. His fastball is typically thrown down the center of the strike zone, daring the batter to hit it; however, he can also locate the pitch on and just outside the outer and inner corners. He throws his slider to, or just below, the outside bottom corner for left-handed batters, while to righties he targets both the upper outside corner and the bottom inside corner. His changeup, thrown almost entirely to RHB, typically is in the outer third of the strike zone, but the broad smear of contour lines for this pitch suggests that Chapman has less control over it than his other pitches, which matches with its somewhat higher than average rate of balls:

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Featured image courtesy of Dennis Wierzbicki.

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Ian is an immunologist and virologist who lives in Atlanta with his wife and two sons. Most of his time is spent driving his kids to baseball and soccer games, during which he indoctrinates his children on the glories of Pedro Martinez, the many virtues of the Montreal Expos, and other important information.