From a fan’s standpoint, what Aroldis Chapman is doing seems amazing. Through May 27, Chapman hadn’t allowed an earned run in 21 appearances and 26 innings. He’d only allowed seven hits, walked eight and struck out 44. But it’s not just those in the stands that are impressed — so are his teammates.
Here’s what the other Reds are saying about Chapman:
Starter Mike Leake: “It’s a lot of fun. You know he has a lot more confidence and knows the life in the United States better. He’s not dreading as much. He’s more happy. It’s nice to see him in that mood. He’d slumbered a little bit the last couple of years, and even more than his numbers, it’s nice to see he’s happier than he has been in the past.”
“He throws 100. When you’re throwing 100, it’s a little easier. He’s throwing strikes and challenging guys. It’s nice to see him filling the zone and throwing to the mitt instead of all over the place.”
Catcher Ryan Hanigan: “It’s just impressive how many outs are by the strikeout. It’s a testament to how many strikes he’s throwing. He’s able to come back when he falls behind and not walk guys. It’s tough to string hits off of him, so with that combination, he’s pretty much dominant right now.”
“He has a two-seamer when guys are cheating and looking to pull, because that goes away from the hitter and you have to stay on if you want to hit it. And if guys are staying back, we go in on their hands. And then we break out the slider to keep them honest and pump the zone [with strikes], keeping it simple.”
Outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who is 0-for-2 with a walk in three at-bats against Chapman with the Padres and Pirates: “I think it’s different from when I faced him until now.
He’s a different pitcher now. He’s staying in the strike zone better. Before, you just focused dead red [on the fastball]. You just tried to get ready. It was fairly straight and you saw it well. Now it seems like he’s got a little more deception and he’s more around the zone. He’s not throwing his offspeed a lot and it’s in the vicinity more. Before, he’d throw that slider and you’d be sitting on it because it’s so far out of the zone right away. Now he’s in the zone and throwing 100, so it makes it tough.”
Reliever Logan Ondrusek: “It’s really impressive. He’s come a long way from his first year and last year, where he had some control problems. This year he wanted to be a starter all spring and they told him he was going to the bullpen and he’s taken to it. He hasn’t complained — they hand him the ball and it’s impressive to watch. Once you get to the two strikes, you don’t know if it’s going to be 100, his slider or a split. At times it’s real fun and other times you just wish you had a little bit of that.”
Catcher Devin Mesoraco: “Right now, the way he’s throwing, he’s just pumping strikes in there. Last year guys would take a pitch and then maybe he’d throw a borderline pitch and get it called a ball, but now it’s strike one, strike two and going right after guys.”
Shortstop Zack Cozart: “Sometimes it’s tough when you’ve got a guy like that out there because you’re so used to him striking out everybody and all of a sudden a ball’s hit and you’re shocked. You’ve got to stay on top of it.”
“His stuff is so good that he realizes on nights when he’s only throwing 95, 96, that he’s still blowing it by people like he’s throwing 103. Guys go up there and know a fastball’s coming and they’re still not hitting it. As a hitter, when a guy’s throwing that hard, it’s tough. He’s missing bats. When he gets a 2-0 count, he’s coming right back at guys and throwing strikes, which is something he didn’t do a couple of years ago. He’s showing a lot of poise out there.”
“You don’t want to face guys like that. When you’re up here in the big leagues, every time someone comes out of the bullpen, you know they have good stuff. But right now, Chapman is ahead of everyone else. I’m sure people see him warming up or coming out for the save and hoping he gets wild, because they know they’re not going to hit him. That’s the key. You go up there and if he’s throwing strikes, I don’t see him getting hit too often.”
Starter Homer Bailey: “He’s almost at an advantage because he doesn’t read the papers, he doesn’t hear you guys talking about him — well, he does, but he doesn’t know what you’re saying — he’s oblivious to all of it. In a way, he’s oblivious to what he’s doing or what the records are. It’s like his first year, when he faced Albert Pujols, he didn’t know who that was — it was just their big first baseman. What he’s doing at the end of games is awesome.”
CONTACT C. TRENT ROSECRANS: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @ctrent