Run from it all you want. Cite advanced metrics. Cite normal metrics. But just know: the extended history between fans and Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman will create palpable nervousness whenever he enters a game — no matter the margin — for the rest of his time in pinstripes.
As calming as Mariano Rivera’s entrance was, Chapman’s arrival will always be the exact opposite, no matter what story his sterling numbers tell.
By this point — Year 6 after he was reacquired, Year 6.5 overall — fans know that Chapman comes with a set of “Gremlins”-esque rules. His dominant outings typically come during the summer. If he’s sweating profusely, he might be perfect. If his forehead is bone dry, you might be in for a bummer.
If it’s raining, count him out. If the first pitch is wild, the next 12 probably will be, too. If the leadoff man walks, the train car might already be too far off the rails; the three-batter minimum will not be your friend, as Aaron Boone showed us all in Michael King’s recent Chapman bailout against the Blue Jays.
Thus far in 2022, the Yankees have watched Chapman walk the bases loaded in that Toronto game and receive a quick hook. They’ve seen a walk-off walk in Baltimore. They’ve seen a meltdown in a 12-8 Tuesday win averted when Trey Mancini swung and missed at a 97 MPH fastball as the skies opened up. They’ve even seen velocity fluctuations (93?!) in otherwise spotless games.
There’s been constant cause for concern … and yet … Chapman’s stat line is spotless. Upset of the century.
Eye test doesn’t match Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman’s spotless start
Not to be rational for a second, but … perhaps this is simply what you have to expect from a 34-year-old closer whose top-end stuff is diving a bit? Regular traffic on the bases, a few outings per month where he’s uncoiling incorrectly and can’t repeat his delivery, and … a good deal of saves/possible All-Star appearance.
The Savant numbers align with Chapman’s 7.1 two-hit innings rather than the Yankees’ Panic Button. Thus far, it’s all red except the walk percentage (of course), something Chapman also ranked in the bottom 1% of in 2021, as well as his fastball spin, which is middle of the road. In terms of xwOBA, hard-hit percentage, xBA … he’s towards the top of the league.
The bottom line is, Chapman is not beloved and never has been. Fans plotting his demise do so early in an outing to gird themselves for whatever calamity might come next. They don’t want to watch him fail, but they want to be on record to let you know they knew it was coming … by predicting a meltdown prior to every appearance, of course.
Chapman’s stated desire for another Yankees extension after 2022 changes this equation, too. Matt Blake’s relief lab has produced far too many stars out of the Clay Holmeses of the world for the Yanks to drop serious coin on an erratic 35-year-old potential future Hall of Famer, and yet … based on how often they’ve re-upped with Chapman already, it’s hard to fully shake the possibility.
Combine that with some 2021 aftershock, and Yankee fans have been in Meltdown Mode prior to every Chapman appearance since Opening Day. So far, the statistical profile doesn’t match the urge.