Chicago Cubs: Aroldis Chapman Proves Worth, Highlights Giants Weakness

Jul 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) delivers a pitch during the ninth inning of the game against the Chicago White Sox at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) delivers a pitch during the ninth inning of the game against the Chicago White Sox at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /

With a one-run lead in NLDS Game 4, Aroldis Chapman pitched an easy 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, earning the save to advance his team to the next round.

After Chicago Cubs number-one prospect Gleyber Torres was traded along with fellow top prospect Billy McKinney, swingman Adam Warren, and low-tier prospect Rashad Crawford for three months of Aroldis Chapman, some were skeptical. After all, how much value can a relief pitcher provide in that short of a span? As the powerful lefty showed Tuesday night, quite a lot.

As Bruce Bochy scrambled to find the right option out of his bullpen to keep his team’s lead, fellow manager Joe Maddon had no problem finding his man when the Cubs came back against the Giants. Sure, a relief pitcher only throws mostly one inning at a time, and possibly about 60-80 innings a year. But those innings can be crucial. And as the Giants showed, the lack of a lockdown option at the back of the pen can prove fatal in October. 

Looking back at the past nine World Series winners, most all teams have had a truly elite pitcher at the back of the bullpen.

2015: Kansas City Royals: Wade Davis

2014: San Francisco Giants: Santiago Casilla

2013: Boston Red Sox: Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow

2012: San Francisco Giants: Sergio Romo

2011: St. Louis Cardinals***: Fernando Salas, Jason Motte, Eduardo Sanchez

2010: San Francisco Giants: Brian Wilson, Santiago Casilla

2009: New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera

2008: Philadelphia Phillies Brad Lidge

2007: Boston Red Sox Jonathan Papelbon

Now you may be looking at some of these names and laughing. Craig Breslow, Fernando Salas and others are not exactly household names. But baseball is a performance-driven business. And in those specific years, those pitchers were dominant, henceforth giving their managers trust to put them in late in the game in a huge playoff series. Let’s take a look.

The Numbers

Team PlayerIPERASV
2015 Royals Wade Davis67 ⅓ 0.9417
2014 GiantsSantiago Casilla58 ⅓ 1.7019
2013 Red SoxKoji Uehara74 ⅓ 1.0921
2013 Red Sox Craig Breslow59 ⅔ 1.810
2012 GiantsSergio Romo55 ⅓ 1.7914
2010 GiantsBrian Wilson74 ⅔ 1.8148
2010 GiantsSantiago Casilla 55 ⅓ 1.952
2009 YankeesMariano Rivera66 ⅓ 1.7644
2008 Phillies Brad Lidge 69 ⅓ 1.9541
2007 Red Sox Jonathan Papelbon58 ⅓ 1.8537
2016 CubsAroldis Chapman26 ⅔ 1.0116
2016 Giants????

As you can see, eight of the past nine World Series winners have had a reliever with 55+ innings and an ERA below 2.00. Chapman can be included if the Cubs win it all since he surpassed the innings total with 58 if his Yankees stats are accounted for. The only team not on the list is the St. Louis Cardinals of 2011 who had Jason Motte (2.25 ERA), Fernando Salas (2.28 ERA) and Eduardo Sanchez (1.80 ERA, only 30 IP). No one on the 2016 Giants had numbers as good as those Cardinals pitchers.

Chapman Was Worth It

It was a bit ironic that the night the Giants showed they did not have the dominant bullpen man to win a World Series, the Cubs showed they did. Now this obviously does not guarantee an ending of the 108-year curse, as the Dodgers (Kenley Jansen), Nationals (Mark Melancon), and Indians (Andrew Miller & Dan Otero) all have relievers who qualify for my objectively defined “dominant” quality (sorry Blue Jays).

Interesting side note: Free agency will be wild with Chapman, Jansen and Melancon available. Will the Giants go after one?

Nonetheless, after a poor outing in game three, Cubs superstar Aroldis Chapman showed he was worth every ounce of value the Cubs gave up for him with his dominant showing in Game 4.

As Chapman said after the big win:

"“It was a very bad day for me [Monday], but I forgot about it before this game started. I knew what I had to do today. I had to get this win.”"

More from Call to the Pen

Next: Indians Bullpen Plan for ALCS

It’s hard not to believe Chapman after seeing just how focused he was on that San Francisco mound in Game 4. He did not mess around whatsoever, throwing his first 10 pitches over 100 mph while striking out the side in order.

Chapman gives the Cubs a terrific weapon for the remainder of the playoffs, but he is just a reliever after all. But judging by the past nine seasons, Chicago has the bullpen capability to win the World Series. Whether or not they can pull it off remains to be seen.