Just a little side story for your Sunday afternoon in advance of today’s series finale against the Orioles.
Last year, the Chicago Cubs made a huge trade for a lefty a fair bit in advance of the Trade Deadline, just as they did last week. Unlike this time around, however, the Cubs were going after an elite rental reliever in Aroldis Chapman with the express intention of using him aggressively in the postseason.
The Cubs did just that, and Chapman later said he had some issues with the way he was used. He was a mercenary, brought in to be used heavily in the playoffs, and he was. Other than being used a little too much at the end of the World Series, I don’t really have a problem with how aggressively the Cubs leaned on the best pitcher in their bullpen.
Fast forward to 2017, after signing a monster deal to return to the Yankees, and Chapman has not been himself. Not only has he already dealt with an arm injury, but he’s sporting a 3.74 ERA, his lowest strikeout rate since 2011, the most hard contact since 2012, and has already blown 3 saves in just 11 chances.
A small sample fluke? Maybe. Chapman’s velocity is down slightly from last year, but barely noticeably, and he still regularly tops 100 mph.
Might it just be that he is still feeling the effects from last year? His manager thinks he might be:
Yankees manager Joe Girardi says last year’s postseason may be catching up to Aroldis Chapman https://t.co/UDuaSyc5Ie
— SI MLB (@si_mlb) July 15, 2017
Does Aroldis Chapman's issue stem from the playoffs? Joe Girardi: "Sometimes it does catch up to you the next year. We knew that going in."
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) July 15, 2017
To be sure, Girardi never said anything disparaging about the way the Cubs used Chapman – only that the long postseason, which featured lots of usage for Chapman, could be lingering a bit.
So, then, maybe the heavy usage last year has played a direct part in the fall-off of the otherwise elite closer. I’m not sure if that makes you feel anything about anything other than it simply being interesting. That’s where I land – it’s just interesting. But it certainly is a reminder that players have to be advocates for themselves sometimes, especially when they enter a new situation.