It has been a season of big moves for the Reds. The two big stars of the franchise, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, signed their talents long term to Cincinnati; while Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart have pushed their way into the starting lineup in their first season with the team. But the most important thing that the Reds have done so far has involved preventing runs, not scoring them.
For an offensive minded team making a pitching change usually goes unnoticed, but not when it’s the Cuban Missile.
When the young Cuban pitcher started his MLB career last season he was only known for having the fastest pitch in the league. It wasn’t very effective but it was fun to watch. This year however Chapman has become an integral part in Cincinnati’s relief staff and was receiving some buzz about a potential move to the starting rotation.
Fortunately for the Reds that never came to fruition.
In the first round of interleague play the Reds were matched up against the New York Yankees. After losing game 1 and dropping to .500 on the season Dusty Baker made a choice that could not only alter the Reds fates this year but for many years to come. He promoted Chapman from reliever to closer, a move legitimized when he not only picked up the save, but 5 more after it this season.
It’s ironic his first save came against the Yankees, a team who understands the value of a great closer. For years they could go into the 9th inning with the lead and assume the game was over behind the fastball of Rivera.
While no one will ever be as good as Mo, the Cuban Missile will have a similar impact for the Reds. For the past few years the Reds have been a competitor but struggled to make that next step. The Chapman move could prove to be that move.
He is 24 years old, has the fastest and one of the hardest to hit fastballs in the major leagues, and is finally where he belongs. With his pitch control improving Aroldis Chapman will take the Reds over the top in the coming years.
With a combination of power and a decent pitching staff the one piece the Reds were missing was the closing pitcher. They could get late into games and remain close but never with the confidence of a championship team. Having a curve ball throwing closer makes a team that way.
But with the proper fastball slinger in position the Reds can rest easy and early. Despite the loss to the Tigers recently Chapman has been outstanding this season, giving up 2 earned runs and striking out 54 in 30 innings pitched.
Aroldis Chapman can be the kind of difference maker that comes along once in a generation, and that dynasties are built from. Funny how the difference maker from last generation, Mariano Rivera, essentially took a bow before the season began. It looks like the torch has been passed.
Lucky break for the Reds they didn’t start the Cuban Missile wasn’t it?