Is Aroldis Chapman the best pitcher in baseball?
Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds have made the hard-throwing Cuban their closer, and Chapman has excelled. His fastball famously hits 100 mph regularly, and he is blowing away hitters at a mind-boggling rate (16.1 SO/9).
Aroldis has also dramatically improved his walk rate. Last season, Chapman floundered to a 7.4 BB/9, but in 2012 his rate is a cool 2.8 per 9.
The Cuban Missile has not allowed an earned run.
If he continues to pitch this well, he will rival some of the great relief pitcher seasons we’ve ever seen….
In a full month of watching Cactus League action in person, Chapman was the best pitcher I saw, and that includes arms like Matt Cain and Yu Darvish. Chapman was a starter in spring training, and he reminded me of Randy Johnson. He was working quickly, throwing strikes at 96-98 mph, and simply dominating.
When the Reds decided to move Chapman back into the bullpen, I thought it was a mistake, and I still do. They might have the best pitcher in baseball, and he’s coming out of the bullpen. (I believe the Rangers made a similar mistake with Alexi Ogando, although Ogando will be making a start this weekend.)
Chapman’s place at the top of the Factor12 Rating is even more remarkable when you keep in mind the fact that F12 is weighed to take points away from relievers.
Chapman’s innings total for the season is 29.00. The league average is 30.94. The current innings needed to qualify for the ERA title is 56.27.
Based on his low innings count, Chapman’s SO-BB number is significantly reduced, by the percentage of innings he is below the qualifying threshold.
Chapman’s final F12 Rating is also reduced by the percentage of innings he below the league average. In this case, the weight is minimal.
So, do I think he’s the best pitcher in the game? Maybe, maybe not, but he certainly has the potential. In his current role as a one-inning reliever, Chapman’s ceiling is very limited.
NOTE: Of course, today Chapman allowed his first earned run of the season and took the loss against the Pirates.