He no longer pumps a consistent 102 MPH and with so many other arms being able to hit triple digits nowadays, the left-hander is no longer a unicorn.
And now with the bullpen set to deal with Zack Britton’s absence for at least three months, it felt even more concerning, even despite how consistent he’s been since 2016.
Until, well, he made his spring training debut on Wednesday night.
That splitter Chappy’s been working on? It looks like it’s in midseason form! My goodness, it’s already feels like a premier part of his arsenal.
Again, this was his first outing of 2021!
Well, let’s not get too crazy. The Pittsburgh Pirates are the worst team in Major League Baseball and it’s not even close. But that location! That movement! It simply disappears. Where’s the puke face emoji?
In the end, it was a clean 1-2-3 inning for the flamethrowing closer, who said after the game that he’s feeling “really really good” with his new pitch.
If he can truly develop a third pitch to go along with his fastball and slider, then there’s no question he’ll continue to elevate himself as one of the best in the game. Most importantly, it’ll make him a lot less predictable, since, over the last few years, we’ve seen over a number of guys jump on his fastball and get on top of it due to his declining velocity. It’s a lot easier to hit when it’s not consistently over 100 MPH and when you know it’s either that or a slider on the way.
The Yankees also had Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson debut on Wednesday. O’Day looked sharp, but Wilson got tagged and allowed a grand slam. However, he’s been behind this spring, so give him a few more weeks to get back up to speed.
Throw in Adam Warren and Lucas Luetge dialing it up so far in their three innings of work, and Chapman could be anchoring a pretty darn impressive bullpen this year, even before Britton returns. By October, hopefully that splitter is in full force sitting down batter after batter so he can put his spotty postseason past behind him.