Aroldis Chapman's return to the Yankees did not go as smoothly as expected in the first year of his five-year, $86 million deal. He finished 2017 with the lowest strikeout rate of his career (12.3 K/9, 32.9 percent) and even lost his job as the closer for a brief stretch during the second half of the season. His removal from the ninth-inning role closely followed a hamstring injury that surfaced around the middle of August. Additionally, he lost more than a month in the first half due to inflammation in his rotator cuff. Looking ahead, there are a few reasons to be encouraged. First, Chapman fanned 41.5 percent of the batters he faced in September, proving that he belonged back in the closer role as the Yankees entered the postseason. Second, he was very effective in the playoffs as well, allowing one earned run in eight innings while finishing with a 16:2 K:BB. Finally, even with the injuries, he didn't lose velocity. Chapman should remain in the top tier of closers entering 2018.
Chapman struck out one batter in a perfect ninth inning against the Blue Jays on Saturday en route to his 22nd save of the season. The flamethrower ends September with a perfect 0.00 ERA in 11 appearances (12 innings), with just three hits allowed and a 17:2 K:BB in that span. Chapman lost his grip on the closer role earlier in the second half, but he's regained his dominant form at the right time as the Yankees head into a one-game playoff against Minnesota next week.
Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts to record his 21st save of the season during Friday's win over Toronto. After Dellin Betances allowed a hit and walk to start the ninth inning, manager Joe Girardi called upon Chapman to finish off the Blue Jays. Chapman has now thrown 11 scoreless innings over his past 10 outings while converting five saves and striking out 16 batters during that stretch. He is entering the postseason in prime form.
Champan worked around a hit with one strikeout in a scoreless inning to earn his 20th save of the season Tuesday against the Twins. Staked to a three-run lead, Chapman hardly broke a sweat when Chris Gimenez doubled with two outs, buckling down to get Max Kepler to end the game. The flamethrower has been in dominant form of late, throwing seven consecutive scoreless outings while converting four straight save opportunities during that span.
Chapman pitched 1.2 perfect innings with two strikeouts to earn his 19th save of the season Monday against the Twins. Chapman came on with the bases load and a one-run lead in the eighth inning, retiring the next two men to escape the jam. He retired the side in order in the ninth to close out what was a precious win for the Yanks. Chapman seems to have regained his form after being briefly removed from the closer's role and has now pitched seven consecutive scoreless outings with a 12:2 K:BB during that span.
Chapman gave up a hit and two walks while striking out four over 1.1 scoreless innings against the Rays on Wednesday en route to his 18th save of the season. The lefty did allow a base-scoring hit in the eighth, but that run was charged to Dellin Betances. Chapman has seemingly reestablishing himself as the preferred closer for the Yankees with back-to-back successful save conversions. He has allowed just one earned run in his last eight appearances with a 12:3 K:BB over that span.