Sep. 26, 2016
What if Aroldis Chapman was a Dodger?
The National League Championship Series is nearing its climax.
The Chicago Cubs are up 3-2 in the seven game series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs have had a historic run this season, finishing with an MLB-best 103 wins, five runs per game (third in MLB) and a 3.15 team ERA (first in MLB).
The Cubs entered the postseason as the favorite in the NL to make it to the World Series and have not disappointed so far.
However, coming into the season, the Cubs’ biggest weakness was their bullpen. In 2015, their bullpen ERA was 3.38 and in 2016 it was 3.56; both years they ranked eighth in MLB.
Specifically entering 2016, their closer role was up in the air. In 2015 the Cubs had 19 blown saves and before the 2016 July trade deadline they had 10 blown saves.
During this year and a half, Hector Rondon was the Cubs closer and was not effective enough, blowing to many saves.
Then in July, the Cubs made a trade for one of the elite closers in MLB, Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees. In the second half of the season, Champan only blew two saves for the Cubs and solidified their bullpen.
The Dodgers had a chance to acquire Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds at the beginning of the 2016 season but the deal fell through after some domestic violence issues.
Even though the deal fell through the Dodgers finished with the best bullpen in MLB (3.35 ERA), they could have been even better than they already are with Chapman. This is because the Dodgers blew 22 saves in 2016, which was 10th most in MLB. Even though, on paper, the Dodgers bullpen looked good with the best ERA in baseball, the back end of their bullpen would have greatly improved with Chapman.
The Cubs finished with 12 more wins than the Dodgers in 2016. It is possible that Chapman going to the Dodgers could have given the Dodgers a better record than the Cubs but one player probably would not have that big of a regular season swing. However, this move would have allowed the Dodgers to use their bullpen similar to the Cleveland Indians are this season. In 2016 Chapman’s overall WAR was 2.5 and could have been even higher being used similarly to Miller who had a 1.6 WAR only in August and September with the Indians.
The Indians are the American Leagues representative in the World Series and have gotten there by their bullpen. In the postseason they have a 1.67 postseason ERA.
Andrew Miller is the biggest reason why the bullpen has been so good; 11.2 innings pitched and 21 strikeouts in the postseason. Indians manager, Terry Francona, uses Miller in critical situations, to get them out of jams or face the heart of the opposition’s lineup, not just in a closer’s role.
If Chapman was a Dodger, he could be used in a similar fashion.; getting the Dodgers out of jams and not letting games get out of hand could have helped them in the series against the Cubs. In Games 1, 4, and 5 the Cubs scored at least eight runs a game. With Chapman, the Dodgers could have stopped the bleeding and he would have kept the Dodgers in the game.
So far in the series, Chapman has allowed two earned runs in three innings for the Cubs and got the win in Game 1. He has not had much of an impact for the Cubs, but as a Dodger he could have the team up 3-2 and on the brink of going to the World Series.