Cubs closer sets postseason mark in perceived velocity
By Matt Kelly
Cubs general manager Theo Epstein shook up the transaction wire when he went ahead and acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees a full week before the non-waiver Trade Deadline -- and before the other National League contenders had a chance to do the same.
The move has paid off big so far in October. The Cubs' closer has proved crucial in helping to shorten the first two games for his club in the NLDS, and he's lit up the radar gun along the way as they look to pick up a series sweep of the Giants on Monday night (9:30 p.m. ET/FS1).
Chapman did what he did best again Saturday night, tossing the three fastest postseason pitches in terms of perceived velocity in the Statcast™ Era on his way to saving Chicago's 5-2 victory over San Francisco. When Statcast™ officially began tracking on-field metrics in the postseason for the first time last year, three pitchers (Kelvin Herrera, Trevor Rosenthal and Noah Syndergaard) fired triple digits on the radar gun, but no pitcher had reached the lofty heights of 103 mph. Of course, Chapman did not pitch in the postseason last year, and this fall it appears he's out to blaze his own path.
In Game 1, Chapman threw eight different pitches that topped 100 mph, as clocked by Statcast™, including the first 103-mph pitch captured in the postseason. Those eight 100-plus-mph pitches totaled more than the number of triple-digit deliveries thrown by the staffs of 15 different Major League teams this season -- including the Giants, whose pitchers only topped 100 on the gun seven times in 2016. The result: a four-batter inning, as Chapman worked around a two-out double by Buster Posey to preserve a 1-0 win and a Game 1 gem from starter Jon Lester.
In Game 2, Chapman remarkably threw even harder. In fact, 15 of his 16 total pitches measured 100 mph or faster, helping him complete a perfect ninth inning to seal the win for the Cubs. Mixed in among those 15 fireballs were the three fastest pitches in terms of perceived velocity (or how fast the pitch appears to the batter) thrown in the postseason during the Statcast™ Era. Chapman's last pitch of the night -- a strikeout pitch to the Giants' Kelby Tomlinson -- raised the bar, measuring at a record perceived velocity of 104.3 mph.
The fastest perceived velocity on record came not from Chapman but Carter Capps, who hit 105.9 in perceived velo on July 19, 2015, while pitching for Miami. Perceived velocity factors in a pitcher's extension, and Capps' unique jump-hop delivery allows him to have an extension of close to nine feet, which makes his already impressive four-seamer seem even faster to the hitter. By comparison, Chapman's extension usually tops out at a little more than seven feet.
After the game, Tomlinson remained upbeat about his chances against Chapman's heater despite striking out.
"I feel like it's something I can bring into play if I get a chance at him again," he said. "Now I've got a better idea of what it's like seeing it so we can do better going forward."
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.