Aroldis Chapman’s Comeback Gives Lifeless Yankees a Must-Watch Spark – Bleacher Report

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Finally, over the weekend, the New York Yankees generated a little excitement. Finally, Yankee Stadium had some life in back-to-back wins over the Boston Red Sox.

You’d have thought Aroldis Chapman was on the mound.

Not yet, but soon enough. On Monday, Chapman’s 30-game domestic violence suspension runs out. Soon, maybe even Monday night against the Kansas City Royals, New York will see what all of the fuss is about.

It’s hard to think of Chapman as a mystery after 546 strikeouts and more than 1,400 triple-digit fastballs, but the fact is the Yankees barely know him.

Those who already do say they’re in for a treat.

“They have no idea what they’re about to see,” said Tomas Vera. “In 120 years of Yankee history, the Yankees haven’t seen this. The New York Yankees have not seen what they’re going to see.”

Vera is more than a little biased. Beyond working with Chapman as the Cincinnati Reds‘ assistant athletic trainer, he became close enough to the left-handed relief pitcher that they still talk regularly.

But even if he says it a little more enthusiastically than most, Vera is only echoing what others have said about the show Chapman can put on when he takes the mound to close a game. Even in a Yankee bullpen that already includes Andrew Miller and DellinBetances, Chapman should stand out.

They throw hard. He throws harder.’s Statcast system includes data back to 2008, and it says 1,404 of the 5,485 Chapman pitches tracked came in at 100 mph or faster. No other pitcher had more than 310 triple-digit pitches (Joel Zumaya).

According to Statcast, Chapman hit triple digits on 453 pitches last season alone, doing it on 39 percent of the pitches he threw.

Not surprisingly, his career ratio of 15.4 strikeouts per nine innings is the most in baseball history, according to’s Play Index.

“I’m excited to see him pitch on a daily basis,” said Betances, whose 14.03 ratio ranks third all-time (with Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel second, at 14.57).

“Hopefully he makes us better,” Miller said.

Maybe he will, maybe he won’t.

As good a show as Chapman puts on, with fastballs that can reach 105 mph on the radar gun and strikeouts at a rate never seen before, he’s just the guy who will pitch the ninth inning when the Yankees have a lead.

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

They had a ninth-inning lead 10 times in 28 games through Saturday. They won all 10 games.

They led entering the ninth inning 81 times in 2015. They won all of those games, too.

Chapman’s arrival pushes Miller from the ninth inning to the eighth and Betances from the eighth to the seventh. It makes it more likely manager Joe Girardi will have at least one or two of his late-inning options available every night. Statcast

But holding leads hasn’t been the issue for a Yankee team that has spent the past two weeks alone in last place in the American League East. Getting leads is the issue due to their inconsistent starting pitching and often-inexistent offense, and Chapman’s presence won’t help them solve either of those problems.

Chapman ended up missing 29 games, because the Yankees had one postponement that didn’t extend the suspension. There’s not one of those 29 games you can point to and say they would have won if they’d had Chapman in the bullpen. Not one.

So why is he here, and why should you care?

He’s here because after the domestic violence issue came up, a proposed trade that would have sent him from the Reds to the Los Angeles Dodgers fell apart. When the Yankees realized they could get him for the minimal price of Caleb Cotham, Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda, they decided it was too good a deal to pass up.

They took him knowing there was a chance he’d be suspended, and during spring training they found out the suspension would cost him 30 games. At a Sunday press conference, Chapman said that he had learned from the suspension, although he didn’t really explain what he had learned.

“The good thing is that’s behind me now,” he said through an interpreter.

Chapman left Cuba for the United States six years ago, and during the suspension he completed the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. But he still uses an interpreter for all interviews, and his English isn’t even good enough to allow long conversations with his non-Spanish-speaking teammates.

John Minchillo/Associated Press/Associated Press

Miller and Chapman had side-by-side lockers in the Yankees’ spring training clubhouse.

“He’s a quiet guy,” Miller said.

Not always, he isn’t.

Chapman’s Reds teammates talk about how fun and funny he can be, and what a good teammate he was. Vera said that once the Yankees get to know him, they’ll see that side of him as well.

“Chappy’s unbelievable,” he said. “If he gets to the point he learns the language, you’ll laugh consistently. … I would love to see him be able to communicate fluently, because his life experience, it’s so much fun.”

He has a generous side, too. Vera tells the story of Chapman going to see a Cuban musical group play and finding out that their instruments were all falling apart. He invited the group to lunch the next day and then took them to buy an entire new set.

“That’s him,” Vera said. “Nobody knows that.”

Chapman can also be serious, as he was when he told Billy Witz of the New York Times he thinks Latin players can become a “target.”

“We make a lot of money, everyone wants a piece of it, and we end up looking bad,” he said. “When I had the [domestic violence] problem, everyone thinks I did something wrong; on social media, people are saying I hit my girlfriend.”

Chapman said Sunday that he never meant to suggest that Major League Baseball had targeted him or other Latin players with the domestic violence policy that resulted in the suspension. He accepted the suspension even though he continues to maintain he did nothing wrong (and never faced criminal charges).

The Yankees were willing to take him, and when Chapman becomes a free agent at the end of the season, you can bet other teams will be willing, too.

For one thing, by all accounts, he’s a good teammate. For another, he’s special on the mound.

In fact, there are those who think Chapman could be even more special in New York than he was in Cincinnati.

“All the reviews say the brighter the lights, the better he gets,” Miller said.

“It’s like the last show of the circus, the highlight,” Vera said. “He’d be a highlight anywhere. But the bigger the crowd, the more they cheer, the better the show.”

Starting Monday, the show comes to Yankee Stadium.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Aroldis Chapman’s Comeback Gives Lifeless Yankees a Must-Watch Spark – Bleacher Report