The primary focus as Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has struggled with inconsistent velocity so far this season has been on his fastball. But a deeper look at the velocity of his second-most important pitch (which happens to be his only other pitch) might be of even greater concern.
Chapman's slider, which he has thrown 22.9 percent of the time this season, has averaged 81.7 MPH -- down from the 86.2 MPH it averaged during the 2018 season.
And while the stark drop in the speed of Chapman's slider from 2018 to 2019 is alarming, it's been in decline since 2016 -- when it averaged 88.3 MPH, followed by 87.9 MPH in 2017.
There is a chance Chapman is intentionally dialing back his slider in order for it to have a bigger MPH difference from his now-diminished fastball. There is also a chance the cold weather has impacted Chapman, who has thrown roughly 11 sliders this season.
If the dip is unintentional or is not due to the cold, though, the issue for Chapman -- who has only thrown fastballs and sliders this season while totally abandoning his changeup -- could be bigger than just his fastball.
Chapman's fastball this season has averaged 96.5 MPH, down from the 98.9 MPH it averaged in 2018 and way down from the 100.1 he averaged in 2017.
"Chappy's still our guy, no matter if it's 95 or 105," Aaron Judge said about Chapman on Tuesday night, after he allowed two runs to the Tigers in the ninth inning in a game the Yankees lost, 3-1.
"His stuff was flat, and hitters knew the fastball was coming," a scout in attendance on Tuesday night told SNY's Andy Martino. Meanwhle, Chapman said the velocity he has now is good enough "to get the job done."
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Chapman is still "an animal out there" whether he's throwing 97 MPH or 102 MPH.
The above may turn out to be the case, with Chapman either regaining his lost velocity or adjusting to it and dominating.
But if Chapman is not dialing back his slider intentionally (or having it suffer due to the cold), it's fair to wonder if both of his pitches are abandoning him at the same time.