Don’t waste a second trying to figure out if anything like Aroldis Chapman’s act has ever been seen before.
The Reds left-handed closer has taken up residence in a world unknown to mortals. Chapman is striking out hitters at a record pace.
And not only is he striking them out, he’s making them look silly. Batters are waving at his 102 mph fastball they have a net swiping at a firefly.
Chapman has thrown 57 innings and needs three more to log 60 and qualify for the strikeout record of strikeouts/9 innings. With 106 strikeouts, he’s striking out 16.74 per-nine innings.
The major league record is 15.99 per-nine innings set by the Cubs’ Carlos Marmol in 2010. The Wild Thing of Wrigley had 138 strikeouts in 77.2 innings.
In 53 games, Chapman is 4-4 with a 1.26 ERA. With the 106 strikeouts, he has given up 25 hits and walked only 14. He’s 28 of 32 in save opportunities.
Chapman lives with his with fastball, with ranges from 98 to 103 on most nights. He pitched in three straight games against the Cubs last weekend and was still blurring it in at 101 on the third night.
For Reds manager Dusty Baker, it’s hard to do much wrong when you have a toy like Chapman you can pull out of your toolbox.
Watching this season unfold, this may be Chapman’s best role. He uses only two pitches, including his 89 mph slider, which he unveils about 15 to 20 percent of the time, tops.
So considering his limited number of tricks, he’s best kept for closing. He’s like the magician with only a couple of fancy tricks. He’s best saved for an after-dinner treat, not the full show.
As for the Cy Young Award, who would be anymore deserving than Chapman?
Left-handers are hitting .103 off Chapman, while right-hander are busting him at a .137 clip.
His only pothole this year came in June when he went 0-4 with a 6.97 ERA. Since the All-Star break, however, in 18 games, his ERA stands at 0.00. He has 35 strikeouts in 17.2 innings with 17 saves.
Since July 1, he is 19 of 19 in save chances. Over 20.2 innings, he has 42 strikeouts with TWO walks. He’s given up nine hits.
The award normally goes to a starting pitcher and leading the way is the Reds’ Johnny Cueto (15-6, 2.45), Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman (9-7, 2.38), the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong (10-6, 2.72), the Mets’ R.A. Dickey (15-4, 2.89) and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (11-6, 2.90).
Of that group, Cueto probably has the edge considering has the wins, the ERA and he’s playing a team leading the division. Zimmerman has the ERA and the team, but not the wins. Dickey has the wins, but his ERA is mushrooming for a non-contending team.
Then, there’s Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who opponents are hitting .121 against, compared to Chapman’s mark of .127. Kimbrel is 0-1 with a 1.23 ERA and is 31 of 33 on saves. He has 77 strikeouts in 44 innings (a 15.75 strikeouts/9 innings ratio).
The last N.L. reliever to win the Cy was the Dodgers’ Eric Gagne, who had 55 saves with a 1.20 ERA in 2003. He struck out 137 in 82.1 innings, the second best strikeout ratio (14.98) ever behind Marmol.
It’s once again time to rethink the Cy Young Award.
It should go to the league’s best, most dominating pitcher, regardless of starting or relieving.
And this year, with six weeks to go, no one has been better than Chapman.