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Aroldis Chapman still can’t find the zone

Since his return, Aroldis Chapman has had trouble locating, yanking a concerning amount of his pitches.

New York Yankees v. Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

In his first outing after being reinstated from the injured list, Aroldis Chapman took the mound in Cleveland, walked the first three batters he faced, and was taken out of the game. The Yankees were up 8-2 at the time, and ended up winning by nine runs, so it wasn’t the end of the world, but it was certainly a concerning return for the left-hander. Even if one disregarded that July 2nd appearance, his subsequent outings have been a mixed bag.

Overall, Chapman has walked 6 of the 19 batters he has faced in July, and struck out four in five outings. His four innings pitched since coming off the IL do not close the book on him, but they have been concerning. The control looks as poor as ever, with his slider all over the zone and almost everything getting pulled to his glove side.

In that aforementioned first outing against the Guardians, Chapman walked three batters without recording an out. He stuck to just his fastball and slider, pulling the heater almost exclusively down and to the glove side, and not finding any consistency with the slider.

Chapman was able to throw just one of his fastballs in the zone, getting a borderline called strike, and the bulk of his balls thrown were focused in the lower pull side. With the breaking ball, the lefty got his only two whiffs in the outing, but was obviously unable to find any consistency with it.

During Chapman’s next two outings in Pittsburgh, he looked better. Granted, this was not a high bar, considering he walked everyone the first time, but I digress. Over the two appearances, the lefty completed two innings, retiring all six Pirates he faced. He didn’t allow a walk and struck out just one.

Chapman was able to get the fastball over the plate at least some of the time, and kept the slider down better than he did in Cleveland. Chapman’s velocity also looked good as well, particularly in the first of his two steel city appearances. These outings were definite improvements over his initial return, but that positive sentiment didn’t last all that long.

In Chapman’s next outing on Sunday night against the Red Sox, he returned to the issues we saw in the first outing. He pitched an inning, faced six batters, struck out two and walked two. He gave up a hit as well and ended up with the losing decision.

Chapman’s heater was stuck to the low, glove side almost every time, over half of which were outside of the strike zone. Meanwhile, the slider lacked much consistency, some of which ended up dangerously high in the zone, or outside of it completely. It wasn’t an ideal outing for Chapman, in what was an overall rough game for the staff as a whole, as he was seemingly plagued by the same issues we’ve seen from him so far.

Chapman’s most recent outing against the Reds was not quite as concerning, and the pitch location wasn’t as consistent with the other outings we’ve seen since his return. He threwan inning, walking and striking out one batter a piece.

The flamethrower was able to get the fastball away from the part of the zone they’ve been gravitating toward, even if he still didn’t find the zone consistently with it. While his slider wasn’t quite as wild, many of them weren’t where one would want them.

Since returning from the injured list, Chapman has walked more batters than he has struck out. In the process, he is continually pulling his heater down and to his glove side, a pitch that is among the easiest for hitters to watch go by. Pitches like this one are simply noncompetitive and have become far too common:

Making matters worse is the fact that Chapman has been unable to find any kind of consistency with his slider, often leaving it in dangerous spots.

Consistency and the ability to locate have never been things you think of when Chapman takes the mound. But, even someone with the strikeout ability he has can’t survive while walking nearly a third of the batters he faces. In all fairness, he missed over a month, and has only made a handful of appearances since his return. But amidst several breakouts in the Yankees bullpen, Chapman’s role already seems to be diminishing, and if the trends we’re seeing continue to hurt his ability to get outs, it will likely stay that way. He needs to get a better grip on his command if he wants to remain relevant.