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LHP Chapman’s fastball an overnight sensation
A Louisville Slugger researcher pointed out on Wednesday that it takes little more than a third of a second for a ball to travel the approximately 55 feet to the plate once it leaves Chapman’s hand at more than 100 miles per hour. That leaves a batter little time to make up his mind and start to swing.
Better not blink.
“The speed bothers you because you have to rush your swing,” Morgan said. “And the other (pitches) bother you because once you rush and something else happens, you’ve got to adjust to that.”
Batters were so keyed to Chapman’s fastball that his slider became tough to track in such a short time. Reds manager Dusty Baker noted that the dominant pitchers of any era have more than just a superior fastball.
“Fast didn’t bother me _ if they were around the plate,” Baker said. “It’s what they have to go with the ‘fast’ that bothers you. If they can put something in the back of your mind _ curve, slider, changeup _ it makes the fast look even faster. That’s what bothers you.”
Chapman didn’t become overpowering at Louisville until the Reds moved him into a relief role in July. He had a 4.11 ERA as a starter, needing a lot of pitches to get through five innings. Throwing hard didn’t translate into domination until he got his control and his other pitches in order.
“If he’s throwing 103 and it’s down the middle, guys are going to hit it,” Counsell said. “There are guys that are going to hit it hard.”
One thing working in Chapman’s favor is that batters don’t see the triple-digit pitch very often. The Society for American Baseball Research said that only three other major leaguers have thrown a pitch 102 mph in the last two years _ Detroit’s Joel Zumaya, the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton and the Mets’ Bobby Parnell.
By using Chapman out of the bullpen, the Reds give him another advantage. Batters won’t get to face him more than once in any game, making it tougher for them to get acclimated to the heat.
“He’s taken it to a level that’s different, that we haven’t seen in a while,” Counsell said. “The guy’s throwing really hard. The first time you face a guy, it’s always a little tougher, especially a guy that’s doing something you’ve never seen before.”
And, there’s always the allure.
Baker remembered that when he was a youth, researchers used photoelectric cells to estimate the speed of major league pitches. Tests suggested that Cleveland’s Bob Feller threw at triple-digits.
“I remember as a kid hearing about Bob Feller throwing 100 mph,” Baker said. “I thought that was the most amazing thing I’d ever heard. I was like, ‘Man, the guy’s throwing 100?’”
Back then, it was big news.
Same now. The number’s just slightly bigger.
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