I'm going to be straight here: the Cincinnati Reds need to stop pussyfooting around.
That statement could be directed toward a myriad of things, but as the headline will tell you, I'm talking about Aroldis Chapman.
For those of you who don't know, Chapman is a really good pitcher. He's a lanky lefty whose arm generates some serious torque with every pitch. Oh, and he once hit 105 on the radar gun.
The 24-year-old Cuban defector made waves when he signed with Cincinnati three seasons ago. So far, he's been utilized as a starter in the minors, and a bullpen arm in the majors.
In 2012, Chapman has been ridiculously good. He has a 0.00 ERA, 0.614 WHIP, 25 strikeouts and four walks in 14.2 innings pitched. For those of you keeping score at home, that's a 15.3 K/9 and a 6.25 K/BB ratio.
Now, most skeptics would go to fangraphs.com and start rattling off Sabermetrics. Well, I'm on there now. His BABIP is at .208, and yes that is ridiculously low. However, his FIP is at 0.57 and his xFIP is at 1.31. In other words, he's pitching extraordinary right now, plain and simple.
So, this young stud is pitching like a beast. Where's the problem?
The problem is that he's being incredibly underutilized. He has so much potential, and the Reds are using him as a setup man.
If they don't want to start him right away, that's fine. The rotation is holding its own, and I understand the organization's desire to take a safe route with Chapman's innings. Also, losing Ryan Madson did make a mess of the 'pen.
Reds GM Walt Jocketty has said that Chapman starting remains on the table, but for right now it's not at the forefront of their plans.
I get why he isn't starting—but does that really mean his most useful role is as a mid-game reliever for Dusty Baker and the Reds?
Right now, the team's closer is Sean Marshall. He's been okay. Not great, but okay. He's converted five of seven save opportunities with a 4.35 ERA and 1.355 WHIP.
While Marshall has controlled the strike zone well, he's been hittable. His 11 hits allowed is tied for last amongst Cincinnati relievers, while his ERA and WHIP are the second- and third-worst in the bullpen, respectively.
From 2010-2011, Marshall was lights out for the Cubs. However, that was never in the closer's role, but always as a setup man. That's the role the Reds had in mind when they acquired him,
It's time for Cincinnati to consider swapping the roles of Marshall and Chapman. One is struggling, while the other is dominating. It's not as good of a solution as Chapman starting, but at least he'd be providing more value to the team until his opportunity in the rotation opens up.
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