New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi made the correct call this weekend in Boston as he changed around his bullpen and took struggling closer Aroldis Chapman out of the closer's role.
In his last four outings, Chapman allowed seven runs on five hits in five-plus innings of work while giving up at least two runs in his last three outings.
It is a far cry from the reliever who dominated on the mound over his previous seven years in Major League Baseball. The velocity is there, the location, not so much.
For me, it was not just about his stuff/location and results, but it was also about his presence on the mound.
That moxie and confidence that Chapman portrayed up until this season has rarely been seen. He has been the alpha-male of any bullpen that he has been a part of, but has not shown that personality much and looks more like a reliever that is searching for answers instead of one that has the solution.
So even after throwing his support toward the lefty after his recent struggles, Girardi made the only decision he could which was to make the change. Entering Sunday, the Yankees were four games back of Boston in the AL East and Girardi could not sit around and watch Chapman implode his squad's chances at a division crown.
Chapman has been rather pedestrian this season, pitching to a 4.29 ERA and looking readily hittable. The triple-digit velocity is still there, but the results are not.
As the Yankees are battling the Red Sox over the week for AL East supremacy, Girardi decided to make the switch and take Chapman out of the closer's role and do what is right for the team.
Girardi did not name a closer, but the responsibility will fall on either the shoulders of David Robertson or Dellin Betances.
At this point, it doesn't matter who the closer is as long as the Yankees win.
With that being said, let’s not minimize the importance of Chapman the rest of the season and into October baseball.
With the acquisitions that general manager Brian Cashman made right around the MLB trade deadline, the Yankees have an embarrassment of riches in the bullpen to be able to make this move.
This is the man they paid $86 million dollars to in the off-season to come back and be “THE GUY” at the end of games.
Unfortunately for Chapman, he has not resembled “THAT GUY” much this season. Confidence plays a major role in an athletes’ success, regardless of sport, and it is clear that Chapman is pitching with little to no confidence right now.
So, maybe taking him out of high-leverage innings will allow him to find himself once again so he can regain his confidence and become the dominant reliever he has been over the course of his career.
Chapman said on Saturday night that, “I’m here to pitch wherever they need me.” Girardi plans to use him that way saying "at any point, similar to what we're doing with our other relievers” and will ride the hot hand and play the match-ups with Betances and Robertson moving forward.
The strength of the Yankees has been and remains their bullpen and makes them potentially dangerous in the postseason. They'll need Chapman to regain his dominant form and become “THE GUY” if they are to win a World Series in October. I do know that.
Girardi made the right decision for his team now and hopes it pays off for his team come the fall. Finding Chapman’s dominance again is the highest priority.