If high-speed pitches are in fashion today in baseball, one of the main promoters of such a trend has undoubtedly been the New York Yankees’ Cuban flamethrower. Aroldis Chapman.
Although it seems that over the years the powerful four-seam fastball of the 6’4 ” tall giant has ceased to influence fear in the face of opposing hitters, making said pitch to a point “somewhat easy.”
With an average speed of 98.3 miles per hour and the use of 56.7% between batters against him, Chapman’s fastball was hit by opponents for a .306 batting average in 85 official at-bats during 2021.
On the contrary, as seen in 2020, where using the four-seam straight with greater pronunciation and less speed, he only hit .095 average in 21 at-bats, when he used that pitch 72.4% of the time between his pitches and a speed of 97.8 mph.
The unevenness between one year and another, where the straight has gone from dominant to simply a pitch with a lot to improve, also happened to the Cuban between 2018 and 2019, using less of the straight from one year to the next, but being more hit as the same happened for 2020 and 2021.
For 2018 Aroldis Chapman used the four-seam fastball in 65.9% of the times of his repertoire, a pitch that only managed to hit him for the low average of .185 after 81 official at-bats, with that pitch having a speed of 100.9 miles per hour make it look like a direct meteor to the recipient’s pet.
In 2019 it was all the adverse, when Chapman would only use the fastball in his repertoire 58.9% and the average speed of 98.0 mph, against which the opposing hitters planted a .218 average during 87 official at-bats.
What is this about?
The main and biggest factor has been the break the player’s four-seam fastball takes upon reaching the plate in each of those years.
During 2021 Aroldis Chapman’s four-seam fastball had a horizontal break at the plate of 4.1 inches, being 10.4 inches vertically, just 1.3 inches more of vertical break than the average MLB pitcher who used the plate. four-seam straight during that season.
For 2020 it was the opposite, when the Cuban straight generated 10.8 inches of horizontal drop, while the vertical break was 10.1 inches, better in 2.2 inches when the straight broke vertically to the average of the league in the mentioned harvest.
The explanation to be able to call that “Aroldis Chapman’s straight has stopped being scary”, clearly has depended on the naturalness of the launch. The fastball is expected to be a primarily location and speed pitch, not a crash break, as vertical inches do not.
The more inches of vertical shape the fastball has, the more it’s breaking, which is clearly not what you’re looking for from the pitch and is what the Yankees’ closer pitcher has been failing at, generating an obvious intermittency from year to year.
Just as it was the most batted fastball in 2021, it was less misleading, the year in which the Cuban only generated 29.3% of the swings against the four-seam straight that were fanned, contrary to 2020 where 42.0% did. it was. The explanation is simple.