Aroldis Chapman is Done as the Yankees Closer
Manager Joe Girardi announced today that former all-star Aroldis Chapman is done as the Yankees closer, effective immediately.
As the team pushes for a playoff spot, his shakiness of late has left the veteran manager weary of utilizing him in such meaningful games.
What Now for Chapman
Girardi added that while Chapman would no longer be serving as the team’s closer, that he would be used “at any point” from here forward.
Chapman’s last four outings have been less than stellar, as he’s given up seven earned runs in just 4.1 innings. This raised his ERA for the season to an unheard of 4.29.
Prior to those outings, Chapman had six consecutive scoreless ones. Although, it appears as though he was quite shaken by a game-tying home run he surrendered to Red Sox phenom Rafael Devers last weekend.
After allowing that homer, his first allowed to a left-handed hitter since the 2011 season, Chapman remained crouched down on the mound for quite a long time. Post-game, it was reported that he sat at his locker almost at a loss for what had just occurred.
This wouldn’t be unusual for a rookie or a more inexperienced reliever, but Chapman has been a full-time major league closer since 2012.
It is also worth noting that he tweaked his hamstring and limped to the dugout after a save against the Mets earlier this week, but the team has—thus far—decided not to shelf him and allow him to find himself both on the field and between his shoulders.
Who Replaces Chapman
While Girardi didn’t state outright what the team’s plan was for replacing Chapman, it is assumed that they will at least temporarily turn to a closer by committee.
The Yankees strength this season, especially after their trade deadline deal with the White Sox, was supposed to be their lockdown bullpen. Therefore, turning over the reins to an experienced late-game reliever like David Robertson or the electric Dellin Betances is far from waving the white flag.
What Caused His Fall from Grace
The overwhelming consensus on the Yankee closer was that he was overused and then discarded by the Chicago Cubs and Manager Joe Maddon.
Chasing their first World Series in over a century, it’s quite possible that Maddon and GM Theo Epstein didn’t feel the need to concern themselves with the future of their high-priced midseason acquisition. The narrative was furthered even more when the team allowed him to walk in the offseason.
Chapman threw 73.2 innings in 72 games last season—including the postseason. While these numbers are high, they are not astronomical when compared to his career numbers.
He pitched in 71 games in 2012, and over 60 in 2013 and 2015, while pitching for the Cincinnati Reds. Chapman also threw a total of 74.2 innings in that 2012 season, which includes outings in the playoffs.
With four years remaining on his recently signed contract with the Yankees, it’s highly unlikely that Chapman’s days as a closer are over. Rather, with the Yankees posturing towards a playoff push due to trade deadline deals, they simply can’t afford to have a pitcher find himself on the fly right now.
Chapman’s stuff, when he’s “on,” is too good for him to not be pitching in high pressure situations. From afar it appears that what began as a possible fatigue issue, might have now crept into his head.
Physical harm can heal with time, but when a player is fighting with their confidence or begins to overthink things, there is no timetable for recovery.
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