Aroldis Chapman has been so good for so long that New York Yankees fans now expect excellence from him on a yearly basis. That may or may not be fair, but the fact is that the Cuban Missile has delivered more often than not when called upon.
Yes, he allowed the home run that ended the Yankees’ season last year. And yes, he hung a slider to one of baseball’s best hitters. But there are precious few relievers you would rather have pitching in the ninth inning for the Bombers.
And, guess what? The fact that Chapman has worked so hard on improving his physique and conditioning tells us that he is hungry and ready for revenge. He already won a World Series, with the Chicago Cubs in 2016, but he is eager to give Yankees fans a taste of the long lost glory that has been so hard to get since 2009.
As the New York Post put it, Chapman used the extended break from baseball to get shredded. His upper arms look like he had been training for a boxing fight in the heavyweight division.
During the quarantine, the Yankees closer worked out six days a week while at home in Florida. He entered camp weighing in at 208 pounds, ten fewer than he had when he reported to the team four months ago at spring training.
“I definitely wanted to take advantage of that, actually wanted to cut some pounds during quarantine and being at home and training at home,” Chapman said during a Zoom before Tuesday night’s intrasquad game at Yankee Stadium. “I was able to do that, I was able to cut some pounds, 10 pounds, and I feel really good right now. I find myself at a great weight for an athlete.”
The lost weight and the added muscle seem like a good idea for an athlete who is already 32 and whose best years may be behind him. However, such a focus to improve his physique bodes extremely well for a lengthy career in pinstripes, as long as he delivers on the mound. And so far, he has.
Chapman is part of potentially the best unit that the Yankees have, leading a bullpen that has produced either the most or second-most WAR in the league for the last five years. Chapman weighs into that equation more than any other reliever, getting the last outs and racking up dozens of strikeouts while doing it.
The 2020 season will be his 11th in the bigs, and his fifth with the Bombers. He has 111 saves in a Yankees uniform, and 273 across his career. Combined with a minuscule 2.23 ERA, an even better 2.01 FIP and a crazy 14.84 K/9, and it’s clear that Chapman has been one of the most consistent closers in history — and the Yankees know a thing or two about consistent closers.
To have that much success individually and still seek out improvements showcases a championship mentality. Chapman signed on for three more seasons in pinstripes this offseason with the goal of getting back on top with this team, and he can have a big impact on whether they win this year by staying in peak form.