All things equal, the New York Yankees should be thrilled with their current lot in life. At 65-56, they are 3.5 games ahead of a crowded field in the American League Wild Card chase and have been far more consistent than any team chasing them.
They’ve exceeded expectations and have a bright future with a bevy of young stars waiting in the wings to excel for years to come. But focus on the future has turned to focus on the now due to this success. And right now there’s an awkward truth emerging that Joe Girardi must address.
The Yankees have an Aroldis Chapman problem. Once an unhittable force, the fireballing lefthander has been stunningly mortal of late. On Friday night he allowed two runs to the rallying Boston Red Sox in an inning of work. It was the third straight outing in which Chapman has surrendered two runs.
Once the most feared closer in the game, he’s no longer a period ending all hope. He’s a question mark.
His 4.29 ERA is up from 1.55 in 2016, 1.63 in 2015, and 2.00 in 2014. His K/9 sits at 12.6 — still impressive — but a far cry from the 15-plus numbers he’s posted in prior years.
Chapman was an integral part of the Chicago Cubs’ World Series run last fall. He was also pushed to and beyond the limits by manager Joe Maddon. Conventional wisdom at the time was that he was being overused. The lingering effects have been obvious.
It’s more constructive for the Yankees to find a solution to the problem than dwelling on the cause. That solution may be what was once unthinkable: move Chapman out of the closer’s role. Either until he regains his confidence or, potentially, permanently.
Girardi has the luxury of turning to proven entities. Dellin Betances is as dominant as any reliever in the game. David Robertson has a long history of getting it done and has been stellar since coming over at the trade deadline. Adam Warren, Chad Greene and young Tommy Kahnle have all been above-average.
Last year, Cleveland Indians skipper Terry Francona mixed and matched his bullpen all the way to extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series. Girardi should consider doing the same. It’s great to have options and Chapman will remain an option. Right now, he’s simply not the option.
That could change should he regain his form. Drastic times cause for drastic measures and an imploding closer qualifies when the playoffs are at stake.