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Chapman Hits 100 MPH: What Does It All Mean?

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The blogosphere and the twitterverse are all abuzz right now with the news that rookie sensation Aroldis Chapman hit 100 MPH on some radar guns at Goodyear Ballpark this afternoon. I don't believe we've seen that kind of heat in Cincinnati since Officer Dibble was patrolling the mound. And I'm almost certain we've never seen a left-hander throw that hard in the Queen City.

It's a rarity indeed. How rare? In 2009, according to the pitch f/x data compiled at Joe Lefkowitz's Pitch F/X tool, only 2 pitches thrown by a left-hander reached 99 miles per hour, both by Bobby Seay on July 10, in the same at bat against Asdrubal Cabrera. That's it. No other left-hander reached even 99 MPH, and Chapman is rumored to have reached 100 MPH a couple of times, with one scout claiming he saw 102 MPH. That's ridonkulous!

According to pitch f/x, there were 263 pitches of 100 MPH or more in the big leagues in '09 with Joel Zumaya throwing the fastest recorded pitch of 102.7 (the lunatic fringe), which he did twice. Zumaya had the most recorded pitches of 100 MPH or more at 138. Next on the list was Jonathan Broxton at 37 such pitches, with sixteen pitchers overall reaching triple-digits at least once on the gun.

Chapman is in rare company. And that company becomes even more rare when you consider that the only starters to do the deed last year were Justin Verlander, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Bobby Parnell. Who knows if Chapman can do the same when he's not pitching just two innings, but 'tis a rare thing to have a starter that can pump that sort of gas.

Does it mean anything besides the impressive number? Well, not if he can't control it. By all accounts, he has had much better control that was expected at this point, so that's a good thing. You have to imagine that he feels an enormous amount of pressure with all of the attention he has received so far, so it's good that he's been able to impress. Then again, expectations were high when he came in and they seem to get higher every time he touches a baseball. As Homer Bailey can attest, the stress of being a savior can be quite a burden for a youngster to bear.

I still think that Chapman should start the season in the minors, regardless of how good he looks the rest of the way. There are still going to be adjustments that need to be made and it doesn't hurt to have a few starts under his belt against some easier competition. The real key at this point is to keep getting him acclimated to the U.S. and to professional baseball and for the Reds to keep him healthy. Clearly the talent is there, but forcing it out before it is ready may delay it from fully blossoming or worse yet ruin it all together.