Remember a time when there was a lot of hype surrounding a Cuban defector named Aroldis Chapman? When Chapman was reportedly being pursued by the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and a handful of other MLB teams, fans of those teams were filled with immense hope and joined in on the hype. To everyone’s surprise, Chapman signed with the Cincinnati Reds and has not been as highly talked about since then. Chapman’s performance thus far in the 2012 season should revive the hype that once surrounded him.
At present time, Chapman is owned in 84% of Yahoo fantasy baseball leagues, and I expect that number to rise soon. I am one of his owners, as I drafted him in every league I participated in. Although the Reds signed Ryan Madson to be their closer, I drafted Chapman with the hope that he may be in the starting rotation and become a 200-strikeout pitcher. In the possible event that he never joins the rotation, I was still confident in his ability to register a high strikeout total. With Chapman apparently being the new closer – for now – with the Reds, his fantasy value has nowhere to go but up.
At present time, Chapman has a 0.00 ERA this season, with the lone run against him being unearned. In 22.1 innings, Chapman has 39 strikeouts, which amounts to a 15.72 K/9 rate. Chapman has walked seven and surrendered seven hits (0.63 WHIP). As dominating as Chapman has been, he did pitch his way out of several jams this season. Among all pitchers with 20 or more innings pitched, Chapman’s .093 AVG against ranks second only to the Oakland Athletics’ Ryan Cook (.060 AVG against).
After the strong start to his 2012 season, Chapman’s career numbers now sport a 2.42 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 129 strikeouts in 85.2 innings (13.55 K/9 rate). As he continues to develop his changeup and his slider, he can conceivably be a much-improved pitcher in the future! Fantasy managers may have some recent concerns over Chapman, as he is reportedly being sued a large sum of money and was reportedly arrested for driving with a suspended license; however, if Chapman stays on the right path and does not do anything to jeopardize his career, he can become one of the more special pitchers in the game today (whether a starter or a reliever).
If you are in need of saves and/or strikeouts, you should add Chapman immediately in your leagues. Chapman is currently owned in 84% of Yahoo leagues and that number will continue to rise. If Chapman moves away from the bullpen and into the rotation at some point this season, you may have added a potential ace for free! Those of you participating in keeper leagues should add him without hesitation if he is available on the waiver wire. Regardless of whether or not you have any long-term plans for Chapman, somebody else may value him greatly in a keeper league. As Chapman continues to grow as a pitcher, so will his potential trade value, especially in the keeper leagues.
As the old saying goes, “Christmas comes but once a year.” Know what else comes once a year? The controversial ignorance of some voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
There are a multitude of players I strongly believe worthy of being voted into the Hall of Fame but remain on the outside looking in. Such players include Bert Blyleven, Fred McGriff and Tim Raines. I was stunned to see Roberto Alomar failing to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Likewise, I was stunned to see Barry Larkin suffer the same fate.
Larkin is living proof that voters can be biased. The voters tend to favor hitters with great home run totals and ignore other stats. Sometimes they will take other stats into account, but only when popular contact hitters like Derek Jeter come to mind.
I think we can safely agree that shortstop Derek Jeter will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer when his time comes. The voters will surely disregard the fact that Jeter wasn’t a powerful home run hitter and vote for him anyway. Cal Ripken Jr. was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
Despite his 12 All-Star appearances, three Gold Glove awards, nine Silver Slugger awards, 1995 NL MVP and having numbers similar to Ripken and Jeter, Larkin received only 51.6% of the votes on his 2010 ballot. Let us observe the career numbers of these three shortstops.
Larkin won three consecutive Gold Glove awards (1994-1996). Larkin likely would have won several more if not for the presence of Ozzie Smith in the NL. I am of the opinion that Smith rightfully belonged in the Hall of Fame; however, it is obvious that Smith was not voted in for his offensive abilities. Smith was voted in for his incredible defense at shortstop.
Before Larkin won three consecutive gold gloves from 1994 to 1996, Smith won 13 consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1980 to 1992. Larkin was a rookie in the 1986 season. Jay Bell won the NL Gold Glove award in 1993 and then Larkin won three in a row.
Career Home Runs
I have no doubt Jeter will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer when his time comes, despite the fact that he did not display the power Ripken displayed. The bias for power is obvious in that Ripken was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Ripken’s 431 home runs dwarf Larkin’s 198; however, the voters clearly neglected the fact that Larkin had a significantly better AVG, had good gap power (hence his nine Silver Slugger awards), a higher OBP than Ripken and a higher OPS than Ripken.
If Larkin had 431 home runs, a much lower AVG than Ripken and the MLB consecutive games record, he likely would have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame already because the voters love home runs. But the voters will conveniently disregard their bias towards power once they vote for Derek Jeter when his time comes.
You can think what you want about whether or not Larkin belongs in the Hall of Fame. I do not begrudge people of their opinions; however, I do not tolerate obvious bias and hypocrisy among the voters. Ripken was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and Jeter will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer (anybody who thinks otherwise about Jeter is delusional).
What did Larkin do to cause voters to look the other way in his case? Oh, that’s right: Larkin only failed to hit 400+ home runs (which Jeter will also fail to do) and failed to play for the New York Yankees. Forget matching Ripken’s 431 home runs or his consecutive games; if Larkin posted his actual career numbers as a Yankee, I think he likely would have been voted into the Hall of Fame last year.
Larkin better not suffer a Blyleven-like fate in regards to the Hall of Fame. When you compare the careers of Ripken, Larkin and Jeter, the evidence is very damning of the voters’ inconsistency and bias.
Christopher Wenrich is a fantasy baseball columnist for BaseballDigest.com.