The former star closer has been rehabbing an Achilles injury for nearly a month. The hard-throwing lefty posted nine saves with a 3.86 ERA before going on the injured list. Clay Holmes and his demon sinker have since taken over and been a perfect 11-for-11 in save opportunities.
And yet, manager Aaron Boone seems more than ready to mix and match once Chapman returns. Holmes will be a high-leverage arm facing the “toughest parts of the lineup” while Chapman does the rest.
Translation: if the good hitters are up in the ninth, Holmes gets the ball. Otherwise, Chapman gets a shot.
This is completely asinine. Chapman has been anything but consistently reliable for years. Giving up the series-clinching home run to Jose Altuve in the 2019 ALCS is just the tip of the iceberg. The following year, he gave the Rays the lead in Game 5 of the ALDS after Mike Brosseau took his fastball deep.
Such has been Chapman’s Yankees career since he rejoined the team in free agency in 2017. For every strong outing, there are multiple awful ones. If it’s not having a really bad month in the midst of a Yankees cold streak, it’s suddenly not being able to throw his fastball for a strike.
And if Chapman’s slider isn’t finding the zone? Well, may the baseball gods save the Yankees.
Chapman isn’t an elite closer anymore. It’s just a fact. His fastball spin being the lowest in his career can’t be fixed with Achilles rehab. It’s clear Chapman’s fastball velocity is gone. Worse yet, he has no clue how to function without it.
There is no debate. Chapman is 34, over the hill and in the last year of an expensive contract. Holmes, on the other hand, is 29 and a groundball machine who doesn’t walk hitters. Not to mention he has two years of arbitration left.
Between those two pitchers, who would you rather have pitching in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series?
The answer is simple, and it sure isn’t Chapman.