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Onward and Downward with Aroldis Chapman

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Getting into a rut?
Getting into a rut?

Chuck Scrabbles already gave us an exquisitely-reasoned case for why Sean Marshall is a good pitcher. In his new role, he's unlikely to be used in less important situations than he has been so far this year. He might even get more regular work. From that perspective, it's hard to mourn his return to a setting-up.

The reason flopping Chapman and Marshall in the bullpen pecking order even matters is that Dusty, along with most major league managers, puts his "closer" sash on just one pitcher. And that role brings with it far too ceremonial duties. The closer enter almost all of his games in the ninth inning, always with the lead - regardless of the match-up, recent usage and often in situations where the run spread is 3 or, sometimes, more. Yesterday's outing was our first taste.

We know that's not going to change, so it's not worth spilling much ink over. But what it does mean, for Aroldis Chapman, is that he'll be used less effectively by moving from a mostly 8th inning fireman to a save-only closer.

Chapman is the best pitcher in the Reds' pen. If it wasn't obvious by inspection, he leads relievers in almost any category you can think up - from fastball velocity to ERA to WAR. It only follows, then, that Best Reliever Chapman should be used as often as his stamina allows, in situations where the game outcome is most in doubt.

So far, that's kind of how he's been used. Chapman has logged the most innings pitched of any non-starter. And he's been used pretty effectively, according to average Leverage Index at the beginning or games and innings entered.

Here are the top three relievers in average "gLI" and "inLi" so far (prior to yesterday's game):

Reliever gmLI inLI IP
Logan Ondrusek 2.01 1.46 17.0
Aroldis Chapman 1.60 1.38 21.1
Sean Marshall 1.15 1.15 14.1

Instead of climbing the ladder, Chapman is probably going to slip down at least a rung, while potentially being used a third less often the rest of the way than he would have been.

Chapman closing is not a terrible move. It's really not - at least relative to where he just was. There are even a few things to recommend it, including the fact that Marshall may be used more effectively. But it's counterproductive for a team trying to contend. It could look worse if Marshall ends up as a LOOGy or Chapman gets further pigeonholed in the bullpen and farther a way from a real trial as a starter.