The beginning of the 2012 baseball season has seen two highly hyped international players live up to expectations: Yu Darvish from Japan, and the Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman. Darvish, a starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers, has gotten his due attention, starting 6-1 with an impressive 2.60 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 52 IP. But Aroldis Chapman has flown somewhat under the radar, and when you hear what he has done so far, you may consider tuning in to some Cincinnati Reds baseball – or at least checking out his highlights on YouTube.
Chapman is known for his blistering fastball, which has been clocked at a major league record 105 MPH. It’s not like that speed is a one-time occurrence, either. In 2010 against the Orioles, Chapman threw 25 straight pitches over 100 MPH. And according to Fan Graphs, in 2012, he has thrown 355 fastballs at an average velocity of over 97 MPH.
If your jaw hasn’t dropped yet, get ready for his stats thus far in 2012: in 21.1 innings, Chapman has racked up 38 strikeouts, only 7 walks, and opposing teams are hitting 0.099 against him. He has allowed a mere 14 baserunners total. You’re probably wondering what his ERA is, right? Aroldis Chapman is sporting a clean 0.00 ERA. No earned runs. Zero, zip, zilch, nada. (He does have an unearned run, however.)
We may only be in mid-May, but you can see for yourself in his highlights – hitters barely even stand a chance against this guy. It’s surprising the catcher can even catch the ball. Chapman has nasty off-speed pitches, as well – if you can call a 93 MPH change-up “off-speed.” His 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is incredible considering how hard he throws because understandably, it is difficult to control such high velocity pitches. Even the great Nolan Ryan was known for being “effectively wild.”
The only worry is that he goes the way of many of the other 100 MPH pitchers – and that’s to the disabled list. After all, he is testing the limits of the human body. As pointed out in this article, tests have shown that the “amount of torque needed to throw [just over 100 MPH] is greater than the amount of force the ulnar collateral ligament…can withstand before giving out.” If the arm speed a 100 MPH pitch requires could be held for just one second, a pitcher’s arm would spin around 24 times.
Although the rest of the league may be thinking otherwise, the Cincinnati Reds certainly hope their flame-throwing new lefty can remain healthy and help them compete with the Pujols-less Cardinals for the NL Central title.