With Aroldis Chapman, the Dodgers Have a Scary 1-2 Punch in Their Bullpen
On the first day of baseball’s annual Winter Meetings, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds decided to make the first splash -- the Reds traded their All-Star closer, Aroldis Chapman, to the Dodgers for two of their prospects.
While the Dodgers didn't need to improve their closer – they already have Kenley Jansen (more on him later) – they did need to improve their bullpen, especially after losing out on signing some of their free agent starting pitching targets, most notably Zack Greinke.
Despite seeing some of his numbers drop this season compared to 2014, Chapman was still one of baseball’s best relievers this season. His strikeout percentage (K%) fell from an absurd 52.5 percent to 41.7 percent, yet this total was still best in baseball. His Expected Fielder Independent Pitching (xFIP) rose from 1.20 in 2014 to 2.49 this season, but this was still good for 10th best in baseball. And we all know how hard the guy can throw. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Chapman accounted for 59 percent of pitches thrown 100 miles per hour or faster this season, with opponents posting a batting average of just .121 against these pitches.
Chapman paired with Jansen gives the Dodgers arguably the best one-two-punch among relievers in baseball.
Jansen’s K% wasn't far behind Chapman this season, coming in at 40.0 percent, which ranked third, and his xFIP of 2.29 was actually better than Chapman’s. The most noticeable flaw to Chapman’s game are his walks – his 11.9 walk percentage (BB%) was 12th worst among relievers this season – and this is another area where Jansen is better, and significantly. Jansen posted a 4.0 BB%, which was fourth best among relievers this season.
The struggles of the Dodgers' bullpen in 2015 – they had the fifth worst team earned run average in the National League – can't be blamed on Jansen, but on the guys who entered the game before him. However, with two of baseball’s best relievers now donning the same uniform, the Dodgers have turned nine inning games into seven inning games.
Both Chapman and Jansen are free agents in 2016, meaning they’re both pitching for new contracts. Another added wrinkle is news from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, who said that Jansen wouldn’t be happy pitching in non-save situations.
Players who know Jansen do not believe he would react well if he lost closer’s job with #Dodgers set to acquire Chapman. Stay tuned.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 7, 2015
We’ve seen how this situation can turn ugly quickly (see Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen), and with Chapman expected to take over as the closer, who knows how that will affect Jansen’s performance. The other alternative, since Chapman is a lefty and Jansen throws right-handed, is that new manager Dave Roberts chooses to play the matchup game in the eighth and ninth innings, letting the game situation dictate who pitches when, instead of pitchers being locked into specific roles. Although this might just be my desire to see managers break away from outdated traditions.
We don’t yet know who the Dodgers have given up in return for Chapman, but it’s believed that they kept their top prospects, meaning they were able to acquire a stud reliever for relatively cheap, all while significantly improving their bullpen.