Aroldis Chapman and Reds Need To Learn From Stephen Strasburg's Mistakes

Charlie O'ConnorCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2010

One phenom leaves, another appears.

Just days after Stephen Strasburg learned that he would be facing Tommy John surgery, Cincinnati Reds left-hander Aroldis Chapman hit the major leagues.

Just like Strasburg, Chapman made his debut with style.

In one inning of relief, the lefty worked a clean eighth inning in only eight pitches, striking out one.

Most impressively, he also hit 102.7 mph on the radar gun. While it fell short of Chapman's 105 mph that he supposedly threw in the minor leagues, it still was the fastest pitch thrown in the major leagues this season.

However, after watching Strasburg's meteoric rise and dramatic fall this season, many baseball observers worry that Chapman will fall victim to the same fate.

After all, both pitchers are fireballers, and the human body is simply not built to throw a baseball at 95 mph, let alone 100 mph.

So what can Chapman and the Reds do to ensure that the Cuban does not experience the same kind of injury trouble?

 

Style

Strasburg was criticized long before his injury for his flawed delivery mechanics.

His "inverted W" style of pitching supposedly made him prone to shoulder and elbow injuries.

Chapman, on the other hand, seems to have cleaner overall mechanics. He keeps his elbow lower and appears to have less of an issue with timing.

This does not mean he has perfect mechanics. He has some issues repeating his delivery, which results in struggles with command. Randy Johnson had similar issues early in his career.

Pitching coaches should work with Chapman to clean up his delivery, but not attempt to drastically alter it.

Just because Chapman throws over 100 mph does not necessarily ensure that he will struggle with injuries. For example, David Price has been recorded at over 100 mph on occasion, particularly in late 2008, when he was pitching out of the bullpen.

Now that he is a starter, Price's fastball sits in the mid 90s, and he has yet to experience a major injury. It is easier and more sustainable to throw over 100 mph in short bullpen stints than in long, 100-plus pitch outings.

Chapman's high radar gun numbers do not make injury inevitable.

In addition, he has a plus slider that will be his out pitch in the majors.

Even if Chapman must drop his velocity down to the mid 90s as a starting pitcher, he still has the repertoire to dominate.

 

Concerns

Still, the Reds must be careful.

The Cincinnati Reds are managed by Dusty Baker. The very same Dusty Baker that is largely blamed for overworking Chicago Cubs phenoms Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

If and when he is transitioned into the role of a starter, Baker must be careful with his pitcher. High pitch counts could be the death of Chapman and must be avoided.

Hopefully, Baker has learned his lesson.

In addition, the Reds must realize that, despite their desire to make the postseason, the long-term future of Chapman is more important than short-term benefit.

While it cannot be proven that Strasburg was injured because he rushed back from a previous injury, it seems possible. After Strasburg was diagnosed with an inflamed right shoulder, the Nationals should have shut him down.

Instead, enamored with their cash cow and convinced by doctors and Strasburg himself of his health, they threw him back out on the mound after missing only 20 days.

The Reds must not make the same mistake.

If Chapman shows any signs of fatigue or soreness, he needs to be parked for the rest of the season.

While having a fireball throwing lefty in the bullpen could be a blessing in September and the postseason, the benefits do not outweigh the costs.

At the first sign of trouble, the Reds should not hesitate. The future is more important.

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