It's common knowledge that Aroldis Chapman is an unbelievable pitcher. The 26-year-old Cuban hurler throws harder than anyone in the major leagues, he has a wicked slider, and he started experimenting with a promising changeup last season. Quietly Chapman had his best year yet in 2014 posting career-best marks in average fastball velocity (100.2 mph), K% (50.2%), K-BB% (40.6%), FIP (0.89) and xFIP (1.20).
The idea that he might be getting better is downright scary, but perhaps the scariest thing about what he does is the way he shuts down left-handed hitters. On the surface this idea should not be surprising. Chapman is a very good southpaw, one would thing nullifying left-handed bats would be right in his wheelhouse.
However, while the idea of Chapman shutting down same-handed hitters is intuitive, his level of success doing so is absolutely mind-boggling. In his career he has faced 260 left-handed batters and this is what they've done:
The first thing this information makes me wonder is "who managed to put one over the wall against him"? The answer -- rather shockingly -- is a 33-year-old Luke Scott back in 2011. For the record, Scott had a 89 wRC+ that season and posted a FanGraphs WAR total of -0.2.
For the record, here's the video of that shot, which may actually be Scott's greatest baseball accomplishment despite having a largely underrated career.
You can't predict ball. You just can't. Kudos to Scott though on an incredible moment.
It's difficult to put Chapman's stats against left-handers into historical context because of the limitations of platoon splits data, but going back to 2002 -- when FanGraphs began carrying that information -- here are the top FIP seasons versus left-handed hitters.
Negative FIPs just shouldn't be possible, even under very specific circumstances with relatively small samples like this. What Chapman is doing just does not make sense at the most basic level. Even more alarming is that if he can sustain his velocity gains from 2014 and keep working on his change, what we saw last year is could be more reflective of his true talent level than his superlative results in previous years.
All of this is barely logical, even within the context of how good the Reds closer is in general. It's simply hard to fathom. The Brooks Baseball Zone Profile below shows how much success left-handed hitters had against Chapman last year when it comes to simply making contact with a baseball.
For those counting at home, opposing left-handers only made contact with 57.6% of Chapman's pitches inside the strike zone. That's an astounding number.
It is hyperbole to say that left-handed hitters have no hope when they step into the batters box against Chapman -- the unlikely Luke Scott showed that there is hope. However, it is no exaggeration to say that there hasn't been a harder man for left-handers to hit against in many years, if ever.
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball
Nick Ashbourne is an Editor for Beyond the Box Score.You can follow him on Twitter at @Nick_Ashbourne.