This past Sunday, the Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman allowed his first run this season and blew his first save. He did however earn a win for the game making it his fourth of the season. Chapman now with a 0.47 ERA through 19.0 innings pitched raises questions to whether or not he could win the Cy Young.
According to ESPN’s 2021 Cy Young Tracker Aroldis Chapman ranks first in the predictor. Chapman has 11 saves on 12 opportunities while adding 37 strikeouts putting his K/9 up at 17.5 which leads the league. With these numbers to backup his stellar performance, let’s add to the case.
The other front runners for the AL Cy Young race are Carlos Rodon of the White Sox and Gerrit Cole of the Yankees. While I am one to make the argument that a reliever’s ERA means less than a starter, I have to start with that. Chapman is a closer so even though he pitches much less than a starter, his ERA is 0.80 less than Rondon and 1.34 less than his teammate Gerrit Cole. That’s a substantial difference when you’re comparing numbers to the competition.
Due to the innings pitched differential, I think the most fair way to compare strikeout numbers is with the K/9 statistic. What K/9 means is if you were to pitch nine innings, how many strikeouts would you get? Rodon has a 13.1 and Cole has a 12.8 which is also much less than Chapman’s unbelievable 17.5. There are at least 27 batters a pitcher would face in a full 9 inning game. Given that number, Chapman is more likely to strike out a batter than he is not.
The New Weapon
As high as fans have seen Chapman get his fastball, he brought a new gadget to his arsenal for this season. His splitter has made Chapman go from a nasty pitcher to seemingly lethal. While Chapman mainly uses his fastball and sinker with the slider option, the splitter is a nice compliment to the fastball. Chapman mostly throws the fastball up in the zone hitting around 100 MPH while he throws his splitter down in the zone at about 90 MPH. That combination has gotten plenty of swings and misses from opposing batters.
Aroldis Chapman Could Make History
The All Star game is on July 13th and if Chapman can maintain pace, I think it is very easy to see him remain at the top spot of the Cy Young race. In a season where pitching is dramatically up and starters have been racking up a record number of no hitters, Chapman as a closer has really been making it hard for a reliever to be forgotten. The last reliever to win a Cy Young was in 2003 and it was Eric Gagne from the NL. The last AL reliever to win it was in 1992 and it was Dennis Eckersley who also won the MVP that season. For Chapman to win this award, it would be something that hasn’t happened since I was barely one year old and the first of the past two decades.
It excites me to be able to turn on the TV and watch Chapman throw as clean as he has this year. I really hope he is able to keep it up and give the fans a once in a generation type of season. As Gerrit Cole continues to throw amazing performances and Corey Kluber‘s recent no hitter, it could be easy to forget this Yankees pitcher but trust me, I wont and you shouldn’t either.