Even with a record-setting offense up to its knees in home runs, the Yankees hung their hat on their deep and efficient bullpen in 2018, with Aroldis Chapman rounding out the impressive group. While his contract was a slight head-scratcher when it was first inked, Chapman delivered a solid season when healthy.
Knee tendinitis kept Chapman’s innings down for the second straight season, but when he was on the mound, he got the job done, especially in the first half. Had he not run into injury troubles which diminished his second half, his grade would absolutely be a higher one.
Stats: 51.1 innings, 2.45 ERA, 93 strikeouts, 1.052 WHIP, 16.9 K/9, 5.3 BB/9, 2.09 FIP, 1.7 WAR
Contract status: Signed through 2021 (five years, $86 million)
If this was a midseason report card, Chapman would have received an A+, with some extra credit in there somewhere. The lefty struck out 68 batters over 40 innings in the first half of the season, pitching to a 1.35 ERA and earning his first All-Star selection since 2015. Chapman’s ability to close the door in a number of tight games against top contenders during the Yankees’ incredible 17-1 run played a big part in the team’s success.
Then, Chapman’s knee started barking, and the workload diminished as Chapman worked to heal. He appeared in just five games in August, and tossed only 11 innings in the second half of the season. His injury clearly played a part in his effectiveness, as he went from averaging over 101 mph on his fastball in early July to just 96 mph in a pair of outings in late August and early September.
Even with the rough patch down the stretch, Chapman’s 16.3 strikeouts per nine was the highest mark of his career, though his 5.3 walks per nine was his highest mark since 2011. One of Chapman’s issues in 2018 was his command, which could have been hampered due to the injury, but he has also lost the plate at times in recent years as well, which always makes for a nail-biting finish when he takes the mound.
Some of the worst instances were against the Red Sox, whom he allowed at least an earned run against in four of his seven regular season outings this season, including a meltdown in Fenway that turned a 4-1 ninth inning lead into a 5-4 defeat, with a little help from a low throw by Miguel Andujar.
Despite some nagging issues with his knee, Chapman allowed just one hit through three scoreless innings this postseason, with two of them coming against Boston. Hopefully that was a step in the right direction in shaking that Boston monkey off his back. If Chapman can stay healthy and keep the form of his first half self next season, it would go a long way in making his contract worthwhile.