Sunday in Cincinnati, Reds closer Aroldis Chapman returned to the big-league mound for the first time this season since taking a hard line drive off the head in spring training. For those interested in seeing it again, here it is:
It takes a special kind of mentally-strong human being to get back on the mound less than two months before surely having one's life flash before his eyes like that. It takes an even more special person to go out and dominate.
That's exactly what Chapman did Sunday in Great American Ball Park against the best offense in baseball. Though Chapman would walk one, he struck out the other three Rockies he faced with seeming ease.
The velocity was, needless to say, ridiculous.
Per the brilliant BrooksBaseball.net, Chapman threw 17 fastballs at an average -- average! -- of 101.6 miles per hour. Here's his velocity graph, with the four dips being the four times he threw a slider at the ho-hum average velocity of 89.3 mph (again, via BrooksBaseball.net):
Here's Chapman's 21st and final offering in his return:
The video stops short of it, but Chapman got hugs from every person in a Reds uniform. His comrades had to love seeing him get back on the mound after experiencing that significant scare back in mid-March.
Obviously, the "love" is initially seeing a team overcome adversity and return from such a scarring experience. They're all still human beings, after all.
Past that, though, Chapman is going to provide the Reds with a huge boost. Coming into Sunday, the Reds ranked 29th in all of baseball with a 4.80 bullpen ERA. They've taken eight bullpen losses and blown six saves.
Jonathan Broxton opened the season on the DL with Chapman, and he's been pretty good since his return. He can now set up for Chapman and the Reds then have the ability to trickle down the relievers from there. Pitchers who have struggled won't need to be thrust into high-leverage situations late in games any longer, as the Reds now boast their pair of closers at the back end.
The Reds are 17-19 and have been pretty mediocre throughout the season. Each time it's looked like they might get hot, they string together a few losses. They've battled injuries -- and still are battling them, especially offensively -- but are now 17-19. Key here is their mark of 6-11 in one-run games. Those things have a tendency to even out over the long course of the season, and with Broxton and -- much more importantly -- a healthy and strong Chapman at the back-end of the bullpen, it'll be much easier to reverse that one-run record.
Basically, Chapman's outing was a huge step in many ways. It was a big step for him to get back up on the major-league rubber. It was big to see him pumping gas up in the triple-digits with ease. And now it's big that the Reds have their elite closer back in the place and the bullpen as a whole is much stronger for it.