Throughout the majority of the season, Yankees fans were positive the game was over once Aroldis Chapman jogged out from the bullpen. From the end of March, all the way to the end of June, the Cuban Missile threw 33 innings with 47 strikeouts and surrendered a mere five earned runs over that span. However, when the calendar flipped to July, the tides turned. Chapman is notorious for how much he sweats on the mound during games, but lately he’s not the only one sweating. The fans are, too.
This month, the lefty-flamethrower sports an 8.22 ERA in 7.2 innings, and blew three of his six save opportunities. So, what’s wrong? Let’s start with the thing he usually does best, getting strikeouts.
From March-June, his strikeout rate was a tremendous 35.6%. July is different, though. He’s striking out 27.5% of batters this month, and while still impressive, that's a decent sized drop-off for a pitcher of his caliber. His walk rate has gone in the opposite direction, as well. Here’s a side-by-side look at the drastic change in numbers from earlier in the season, to now:
Opposing hitters are slashing .267/.425/.400 with an OPS of .825 against Chapman in July. Those are by far his worst numbers from any month this season. His seven earned runs surrendered this month are more than the first three months of the season combined (5). Alongside that, Chappy’s fastball velocity has also taken a bad turn. It went from an average of 98.7 mph in June, to 97.1 mph in July, his lowest of the season. Since he throws his four-seamer over 55% of the time, it’s crucial for him to keep the velocity up, if not, he then becomes predictable with the slider.
Batters have been able to square-up Chapman’s pitches and hit him hard. His average exit velocity is 87.3 mph, which is his highest since May when it was 89 mph. With that, he’s given up 40 line drives which is a season high, and 12 more than the month prior.
I’m sure the game that sticks out as his “biggest blunder of the month” was against the Rays on July 15. Tampa Bay was down 4-2 in the ninth inning, until Travis d’Arnaud hit a go-ahead three-run bomb against Chapman to beat the Yanks 5-4.
Even when the Yankees win, Chapman still makes it entertaining. He entered in the final game of the four-game series against the Boston Red Sox over this past weekend. The Yanks had a 9-4 lead in the ninth, and Chappy allowed two hits, a walk, and two runs. The Yanks still came away with the victory, 9-6, but it didn’t come easy as it probably should have.
Although July did not treat the Cuban Missile with a ton of respect, he is still one of the best closers in all of baseball. It’s been hard put trust in him during the past month, but it is vital, especially with a mediocre starting rotation, for him to bounce-back soon and continue to help the Yankees win games.