Cincinnati's got the division title locked up, but Paul Daugherty thinks they still need to make a big change in the bullpen, swapping the struggling Francisco Cordero for the electric Aroldis Chapman ...
- The manager makes the fair case that pitching in the last inning is more difficult than pitching in any that precede it. Closers have to have great arms and heads.
Cordero has had both. Chapman owns the former, as far as we know. Baker asks, “Is this the place to experiment?’’
Meaning, “Do we really want to audition a rookie with eight major-league appearances for a crucial October role?’’
Better answer: Yes, we do.
Ninth-inning pressure is invisible, compared with what Chapman has endured, and continues to endure. Try having your first child, and the child’s mother, in a place you can never return. Focus? Chapman has to succeed, because he can’t go home.
Sure, he has lots of money. But money can’t buy his dream, which he is living right now, and intends to keep living for the next decade at least. That’d get a man’s mind right.Look, I've never said that psychology doesn't matter in baseball.
What I've said is that I'm not smart enough to understand it.
I'm not absolutely convinced that Paul Daugherty is smart enough, either. And I'm not convinced that Chapman's history as a defector tells us anything about his ability to pitch in pressure situations.
But I think Daugherty's essentially right: Cordero's not getting it done, and Chapman's probably the best candidate to fill that role.
Six Cincinnati relievers have pitched in at least 32 games. Among those six, Cordero's ERA ranks fifth and his strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks sixth. Sure, maybe he'll find his old self in time for October, but his 1.47 K-to-BB ratio just doesn't inspire optimism. He's throwing plenty hard, but I do notice that he's throwing more fastballs than ever and I'm wondering if he's throwing too many of them. And even with all those fastballs -- the easiest pitch to control -- Cordero's walk rate is elevated this season. And so I wonder if there's some mechanical issue that isn't likely to be repaired this fall.
The problem with demoting Cordero and promoting Chapman is simple: It would be a huge, disruptive story and you prefer to avoid those as you're entering the postseason. So if you're Dusty Baker (or Walt Jocketty) you have to weigh the marginal benefit of switching relief roles against the unknown cost of rocking the clubhouse (or at least one corner of it).
If you're playing a computer game, you make the move. If you're playing National League baseball, maybe you don't. Dusty Baker and Walt Jocketty probably won't, unless Cordero gets roughed up a few times in the next couple of weeks.
It's worth thinking about, though. I don't know anything about Aroldis Chapman's psychology. We all know a lot about his dynamite left arm, though.