Aroldis Chapman has matured into a complete pitcher for Reds

As the hot stove continues to warm in the days leading to the Winter Meetings, one name that is almost certain to be dealt is Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman. The 27-year-old Cuban has provided tremendous value for his club during his six seasons in the league, posting a 2.17 ERA, a 42.9 percent strikeout rate, and 146 saves. Although he only has one year left on his contract, the All-Star closer can be expected to fetch a massive return for the rebuilding Reds.Chapman’s fastball velocity has made him a folk hero among pitchers everywhere, and even led the present author to hang a poster of him on his college dorm room wall. He deserves every accolade resulting from his terrific velocity, but it would not be fair to stop our discussion of Chapman’s dominance there. The Reds’ closer now features a mature, three pitch arsenal that has made him a complete pitcher. Fastball velocity is difficult to hit on its own, but f

astball velocity coupled with his advanced approach makes for a true relief ace. TRADE RUMORS: 10 National League stars who could be dealt this offseasonBefore getting to the rest of his arsenal, allow me to indulge you in a few fun stats about his velocity this season. 1. Chapman threw 336 pitches at least 100 mph. The next closest was Royals’ reliever Kelvin Herrera with 64.2. Chapman threw 29.02 percent of his pitches at least 100 mph. Herrera was next best at 5.98.3. Chapman’s average fastball velocity was 99.4 mph. Arquimedes Caminero was next at 97.8.4. Chapman has all 50 entries on the .com Statcast fastest pitches leaderboard, including a maximum of 103.9. This led .com to create the “Chapman Filter” to see the fastest pitches thrown by someone other than Chapman.5. As a result of his terrific extension up to 7.2 feet, Chapman has been able to add up to 2.1 mph of perceived velocity to his fastball, making a 103.1 mph pitch seem like 105.2 mph.These are comical and make it seem like Chapman is playing a video game with a cheat code. That type of velocity is not close to matched and a big reason why Chapman has been terrific for Cincinnati and why he will fetch a massive return on the trade market.But this is just the beginning of the book on Chapman. The lefty also throws a slider and a changeup to keep hitters off of his 99.4 mph heater with great success. He still throws the fastball 75.5 percent of the time, but the presence of two high-quality offspeed pitches strengthens his overall repertoire.Pitch value statistics help us understand the worth of each individual offering by measuring the results of the pitch in runs per 100 pitches. These should not be taken as law, but they are a useful approximation. For Chapman, the run value per 100 pitches is shown in the chart below.PitchPercent of PitchesPitch Value (Runs/100 Pitches)Fastball75.01.18Slider16.81.29Changeup8.11.62    Especially considering the visual appeal and the hype surrounding the fastball, it is surprising to see the fastball check in last. The surprise factor certainly helps Chapman’s offspeed play up, and three numbers very close to one another signify an appropriate distribution pitch types. Make no mistake, his fastball is his best pitch, but in their complimentary roles, the offspeed pitches have been better on a per-pitch basis.The SliderThe slider is the second-most used pitch in Chapman’s repertoire, checking in at 16.8 percent. His total usage rate with the pitch does not change based on the handedness of the batter, but the role of the pitch in the sequence changes slightly. Against righties the slider is typically deployed as an early or even count weapon, while against lefties the slider is used as a strikeout pitch. In both cases, however, the location of the pitch is largely the same, as displayed on the chart below. This chart is from the catcher’s point of view, meaning that the sliders are away from a lefty and in to a righty. This is a common usage pattern for the pitch that strives to maximize the effectiveness of the offering to hitters on both sides of the plate. For a lefty against a lefty slider, the pitch appears to sit in the middle of the plate but breaks down, away, and impossible to reach out of the zone. For a righty facing Chapman’s slider, the offering will again appear to be a hittable pitch in the middle of the zone but break down and in towards the batter’s back foot, causing the batter to either swing on top of the ball or tap it weakly down the third base line.The effectiveness of the pitch is expanded as a result of the velocity difference between his heater and slider. While the hard slider (or for the Mets’ staff, the Warthen slider) has become increasingly popular, Chapman’s version of the pitch gains deception from the 12.7 mph difference between his average fastball and average slider velocity. That figure is second among relievers with at least 60 innings pitched last season, with only Joakim Soria averaging a larger difference between the offerings. When a batter is geared up for 99.4 mph heat that is often perceived at more than 101 mph, a 12.7 mph difference in velocity makes it extremely difficult to find the timing for both pitches.The ChangeupChapman’s least utilized pitch, the changeup is a clear third offering with a specific role in his sequencing patterns. Despite being thrown in just 8.1 percent of all pitches, he increases the usage to 10 percent against righties and 18 percent when ahead against righties. Recall that he prefers the slider early in the count and even in the count against righties but is not as comfortable going to the pitch with two strikes. The changeup fills these gaps left by the slider to ensure that no matter the situation, he always has an offspeed pitch that he is comfortable throwing.His command of the pitch is sometimes lacking and many changeups were mistakenly left up in the zone. In spite of this, the deception and velocity difference between the changeup and fastball have made it an effective offering. Of relievers with at least 60 innings pitched, the 11.3 mph difference between Chapman’s changeup and fastball ranks seventh behind renown changeup artists Tyler Clippard and Fernando Rodney, among others. Additionally, the changeup features 8.5 inches of lateral movement away from a righty, hardly an insignificant figure for a clear third pitch.The most impressive aspect of Chapman’s complete repertoire is whiff rate on a per-pitch basis. The league average whiff rate is 9.9 percent, but Chapman wastes no time with single digit whiff rates or even whiff rates below 20 percent. Instead, his fastball generates whiffs at an outstanding 20.23 percent clip…the lowest of his three offerings. The slider misses bats at a 22.63 percent rate, but the champion among his pitches is surprisingly the changeup, with a 23.60 percent mark.WrapChapman misses bats and wins fans with his unmatched fastball, but he is not a one-trick pony. The Reds closer has developed a mature understanding of a surprisingly deep arsenal that is capable of beating opposing hitters in multiple ways. Sure, blowing 101 by a hapless opponent is fun, but the addition of the changeup in 2014 to go along with his devastating slider makes the league’s most feared closer even more effective. Expect the Reds to get more than any team has ever received in a trade for one season of a relief pitcher, but also expect Chapman to be completely worth it.Dan Weigel is a contributor at Sporting News focusing on pitching. Follow him on twitter at @DanWeigel38 .

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