The Yankees should make the bold call and keep Zack Britton as their closer when Aroldis Chapman returns.
That chill going down your spine, Yankees fans? It’s a vision of the future.
It’s the fleeting thought of a rusty Aroldis Chapman, over a month behind his teammates thanks to his slow recovery from COVID-19, taking the reins in a one-run game in the ninth, moments after an emboldened Zack Britton handled the eighth 1-2-3 in four minutes.
Somehow, without Chapman (and Tommy Kahnle), the back ends of tight games have gotten more comfortable. Chad Green has taken on an extra inning or two, and he’s in monster mode. In an effort to save Adam Ottavino for October, he’s been deployed more sparingly, but has also been moderately unhittable. Britton’s been the cherry, rarely if ever allowing a baserunner in five spotless saves thus far.
And so, we plead: When Chapman returns, don’t hand him the closer role until he proves he’s locked in.
This is not a petition to permanently remove Chapman from his post. After all, love the experience or hate it, he’s one of the most electrically effective relief options in baseball history.
He doesn’t fail any more often than Mariano Rivera did. Your last memory of him is The Smirk, which we’ve all come to believe means a bit more about his opponent than his own pride. Wipe that off your face and brain; Chapman is an excellent closer.
But why not ride the hot hand? Especially when the hot hand brings a similar, but currently more effective, look to the table? Lefty arm slot, nasty sinker, brutal slider. Sacrifice five miles per hour for better spots — that’s what a fresh Britton is giving you.
Bottom line: 2020 Britton has a similar arsenal to Chapman, and better control over his own weaponry.
The comfort factor Yankees fans are currently feeling isn’t misguided.
We just don’t see a reason to bring Chapman “back” to his unquestioned position when we’re currently experiencing much quicker exhales under Britton rule.
Often, I can’t bring myself to watch a particularly tense ninth inning. I’ll refresh and refresh the MLB At Bat app under the dinner table, trying to time my reviews with breaks in the action.
With Britton embedded as the closer, the length of my pauses has generally been enough for the full inning to be completed. It’s just been … so much easier, on the whole. So why force it? Let Chapman shake the rust off in slightly lower leverage before toppling this structure.