Chapman heating up after slow start

May 22nd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

No Giants hitter swings harder than a notion that was backed up by the launch of Statcast’s new bat-tracking metrics earlier this month.

Chapman entered Wednesday with an average bat speed of 76.5 mph, the seventh-fastest rate in the Majors behind Giancarlo Stanton, Oneil Cruz, Kyle Schwarber, Christopher Morel, Aaron Judge and Ronald Acuña Jr.

While his bat continued to whistle through the zone, Chapman didn’t have much to show for it through his first six weeks with the Giants. The 31-year-old third baseman batted only .204 with a .595 OPS and 41 strikeouts over his first 37 games of the year, but he’s finally starting to see some results now that he’s seemingly found his timing at the plate.

After crushing his sixth home run of the season -- a solo shot off Pirates reliever Luis L. Ortiz in the seventh inning of the Giants’ 7-6 walk-off loss at PNC Park on Tuesday night -- Chapman is now hitting .372 with six doubles, two homers and eight RBIs over his past 11 games, boosting his OPS to .714 on the season.

Chapman's latest blast had an exit velocity of 104.8 mph and traveled a Statcast-projected 414 feet out to center field, showcasing the type of damage he can do when he squares up pitches with his elite bat speed.

“My swing works when I’m on time,” Chapman said after recording his second career four-hit game on Saturday. “When I’m late, everything starts to get a little bit out of whack. For me, it’s just trying to be as early and easy as possible and just kind of let my body and athleticism take over instead of trying to force it a little bit.”

Chapman’s offensive resurgence should bode well for the Giants, who were counting on the two-time Platinum Glove Award winner to serve as a middle-of-the-order bat after signing him to a one-year, $18 million deal with two player options in March.

“He can get a little streaky at times, and now you’re seeing what he has to offer,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He draws walks, not trying to do too much. He’s getting better balls to hit and using the whole field. Typically, that’s what he does when he’s swinging the bat well. But this is who he is. He’s made a nice career for himself.

"We were lucky to get him, and after a little bit of a slow start, obviously, you’re seeing the numbers start to pick up. He’s giving good at-bats almost every time up.”

Chapman has also been more active than usual on the basepaths this year, stealing a career-high five bases through 48 games in 2024. Some of those have come on the back end of double steals, though Chapman said he’s still trying to stay opportunistic and look for good spots to run this year.

“I’m definitely not chasing any number, but the coaches have just been helping me out with things they pick up on,” Chapman said. “If you can get it, get it. I’m still not trying to force anything, but if it’s there, I’ll take it, for sure.”