Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
When a power pitcher begins to lose his fastball, he first tells the world that everything is fine.
The pitcher's manager and teammates will echo that too, because what can you say in the face of apparently diminishing stuff other than to offer encouragement?
We don't know if Aroldis Chapman is there yet, but the comments about his velocity so far on the young season certainly carry a tone of, "it is what it is."
"Chappy's still our guy, no matter if it's 95 or 105," Aaron Judge said Chapman on Tuesday night, after the closer allowed two runs in the ninth inning against the tanking Tigers, and lost the game 3-1.
That's nice of Judge to say, but there is obviously a significant difference between those speeds, and it has become evident in Chapman's performances during the team's first homestand.
It's been well-documented by now that Chapman sat 93-96 mph on Opening Day, while topping at 98. His second appearance on Monday brought moderate improvement, which he sustained on Tuesday. But Chapman's stuff has been far from electric.
The two run-scoring singles in Tuesday's loss came on 97.8 mph and 94.8 mph fastballs.
"His stuff was flat, and hitters knew the fastball was coming," said a scout in attendance.
Temperatures in the Bronx the last two nights were frigid, and some power pitchers don't round into form until the weather heats up and their arm gets looser. Chapman continues to insist the he feels fine, and he acknowledged that it might take time to find his peak fastball.
"I feel great," Chapman said. "Physically I feel really, really good. My arm feels really good. I've done a lot of work to get to this point. Of course, the more you pitch, the more games you get in, most likely the better I'm going to be.
"The velocity that I have right now, it's good enough to get the job done."
That was true in Chapman's first two appearances of the season, but not on Tuesday. In the view of Yankee officials, there's nothing to worry about as long as Chapman is getting outs. It stands to reason that he will not be able to get as many outs as he once did unless his velocity improves.
"I mean, I guess if you're talking 97, 98 instead of 102, there is maybe less of a margin [for error], but he's got plenty," manager Aaron Boone said. "His stuff is crisp … Is there less margin? I guess technically. But he's still an animal out there."
That's diplomatic, but notice how no one is pushing back against the idea that Chapman looks suddenly diminished from his peak.
That might be an April blip, and it might be a season-long theme. But, as the first homestand of the season winds down, it remains a very open question.