The weight of the NL on Aroldis Chapman’s shoulder
Overstatement? Maybe, maybe not. But if Aroldis Chapman’s shoulder doesn’t come around, and we have some evidence that this will take more time than they can afford, the Reds look a lot more vulnerable. Last year when his shoulder fatigued in mid-May, it took until late June for him to come back. The Reds can’t wait until late October, as the Cards get Carpenter back, the Giants experienced rotation is rounding into form, and the Braves can’t lose when Medlen starts. Oh, and the Nats are still the best team in baseball.
My feeling is that he won’t be the same. He’s been a “riddle” since being signed out of Cuba. Dominating in certain stretches (I mean, obliterating any K/9 metric, 1.76 per IP this year, established in the history of baseball) and the stuff to prove it. I saw him pitch live on July 24 and it was probably the best stuff I’ve ever seen in person from a pitcher (and I’ve seen Ryan, Clemens, Randy Johnson, Smoltz, on and on). But other stretches (in his career), he’s hittable, wild, and completely undependable to the point of demotion. We had the former up until a week ago. Now, what do you do? Do you finish the “rest” prescription (here at 14 days instead of 40), then go with him in the closers role as if he didn’t miss a beat? What happens if he gets roughed up again? More rest? Let it ride? Is he mentally worried about stressing the shoulder? What if every other outing is dominant? Brad Lidge in 2005 was outstanding every other outing. It was the “other” outings that we remember. And a key postseason series doesn’t take a day off.
I hope I’m wrong. He’s electric to watch. The Reds already got a bad break with Votto’s injury. But postseason series are literally decided in a game, and if he’s off one game, the other 162 won’t matter.
For the engineering geeks like me, here’s a Sport Science take.