Speed Chap: Aroldis is on everybody's radar
Has highest strikeout rate, lowest batting average against since 1901
Sometimes it feels like no matter how many incredible Aroldis Chapman facts you name, it's just never enough, because there's always something more fascinating right behind it. That is to say, no one does what he does. Chapman is something like "the Giancarlo Stanton of pitching," doing things with velocity that we can't really say we've ever seen before. It's why he's the most interesting name likely to be traded this offseason, because he's elite and fun and probably historic.
The left-handed flamethrower has drawn significant interest from a huge handful of teams, most notably the Astros, Nationals, Mariners and Rangers. Needless to say, though, wherever Chapman ends up, all opponents will be interested -- if not fearful -- that Chapman will land in their division.
As we wait to see if and when the Reds decide to move Chapman to a contender for the final year of his contract, let's take a moment to remember why it is that in a sport that sees increasing velocity every year, he still stands out.
Because he throws more heat than everyone else, combined.
Since the start of Chapman's first full season in 2011, 51 pitchers have combined to throw 2,292 pitches of 100 mph or more. Thirty of those pitchers just barely made the cut, doing so five times or fewer. Only seven have done it 50 times; only four have done so 100 times. The pitcher in second place, Kelvin Herrera, has hit triple digits an impressive 249 times. That sounds like a lot, until you realize how many times Chapman has done it: 1,212, and that's not a typo.
It goes without saying that Chapman has hit 100 mph by himself more than any other team over the past five seasons. It might not be so clear that he's done it more than the entire rest of Major League Baseball combined over that span, too:
Because even making contact doesn't earn hitters much.
Since no one throws with more power than Chapman, you might expect that all a hitter needs to do is get the bat on the ball to make some noise happen. But as we learned when we looked back at three cool lessons from Statcast™'s first year, that's not really true -- there's not much of a correlation between pitch velocity and exit velocity.
Though it's only been one year, there does seem to be a correlation between exit velocity and skill, as we saw when the three starting pitchers (minimum 3,000 pitches) with the lowest exit velocity were Cy Young Award winners Dallas Keuchel and Jake Arrieta, along with living legend Clayton Kershaw. When we set the barrier to only 400 pitches to include relievers, we get 494 names, and Chapman's average exit velocity of 84.2 mph was eighth-best, even better than Kershaw's 85.2.
As you can see, Chapman stands alone in the upper-left quadrant of high pitch velocity and low exit velocity, which is exactly where you want to be:
Chapman sometimes mixes in a change (.100 average against) and slider (.129), which is unfair, considering that hitters already hit only .184 against that fastball.
Because the combination of missing bats and limiting hard-hit balls is pretty lethal.
We know that Chapman throws hard, and we know that hitters don't hit the ball hard back. But hitters worrying about how hard they make contact only matters when they do make contact, and of course they very often do not. Of all the entertaining Chapman whiff stats, perhaps the most fun is this: In 2015, he struck out 41.7 percent of the hitters he faced, which was the highest in baseball. It was also his lowest mark since 2011.
Dating back to the dawn of modern baseball in 1901, 746 pitchers have thrown at least 300 innings. Chapman is not only the all-time leader in strikeout percentage (42.9 percent), he's also the leader in lowest batting average against, .153:
Obviously, these facts aren't unrelated: There's a very good correlation between getting strikeouts and limiting batting average. It's also fair to note that the all-time strikeout leaderboard is tilted towards recent one-inning relievers, just because the game now is so much different than it used to be. (Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen are the two other dots near Chapman to the right.)
But even with that in mind, Chapman still stands out. We can't go far enough back to say with certainty that he's the hardest-throwing regular pitcher baseball has ever seen. We can say, with a great deal of certainty, that Chapman is the hardest thrower of the hardest-throwing generation. For whatever team acquires him this offseason, that'll be more than good enough.