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updated: 8/12/2012 7:16 PM

100 mph? 103? Reds' Chapman simply amazing

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  • Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman has struck out 106 hitters in 57 innings this season.

      Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman has struck out 106 hitters in 57 innings this season.
    Associated Press

 
 

The question nagged at me all day Sunday at Wrigley Field.

Is anybody in baseball doing his job as well as Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman is doing his?

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"If there is," Reds' manager Dusty Baker said, "he's something to behold."

Chapman was something beholder, so to speak, as he finished off a 3-0 victory for his third save in three days against the Cubs.

One of the best things about Chicago baseball is getting to see everybody in both leagues over the course of a season.

The Pirates' Andrew McCutcheon and the Angels' Mike Trout, the current favorites to win the MVP award in their respective leagues, played here during the past couple weeks.

But neither of them -- maybe not both combined -- was as impressive as this Chapman guy.

Possibly seeing Chapman pitch was the only reason I went to Wrigley Field instead of Comiskey Park on this day.

I half-joked a couple years ago with Reds' manager Dusty Baker that he became smart again after leaving the Cubs.

A couple years later, having Chapman as a closer has made Baker one of the world's smartest men inside or outside of baseball.

Numbers can become burdensome in this game compared to what you see on the field. In Chapman's case both are overwhelming.

First some statistics: For starters, the Cuban left-hander has 28 saves and a 1.26 earned run average; then, 106 strikeouts and 14 walks in 57 innings; finally, an ERA of 0.18 and batting-average-against of .101 versus National League teams.

OK, enough of what's on paper. Let's move on to what's on the playing field.

I went down to a first-base box seat for the bottom of the ninth inning to watch up close what Chapman is all about.

On this day he was mostly about throwing strikes ... at up to 103 miles per hour ... with a changeup faster than a lot of pitchers' fastballs ... and a slider that a batter can't account for.

Cubs' second baseman Darwin Barney pulled Chapman's third pitch -- a mere 98 mph -- for a single to left field. Chapman proceeded to retire the next three batters with mostly fastballs between 100 and 103 mph.

Oh, did I mention that Alfonso Soriano's knees buckled on an 89 mph slider for a called third strike?

Here's what's remarkable: Chapman wasn't particularly sharp while appearing in his third game in three days.

Perhaps because Baker has been accused over the years of overusing pitchers, he made the point that this was only the second time Chapman pitched three straight days. He went to him one more time because the Reds' bullpen was a little short and Monday is an off day.

The Cubs -- like most teams -- were overmatched as Chapman struck out 6 of the 11 batters he faced over the weekend.

Baker, a baseball historian of the past half-century, named some great closers like Rob Nen, whom he had with the Giants, and Rod Beck who could work seven straight days when they were together on the Cubs, and Bobby Thigpen of the White Sox, and hard-throwing Billy Wagner of a few teams.

Then Baker added a couple more "who didn't throw 100 but could get you out. The key is to get them out."

Chapman throws faster than 101, gets batters out and nobody in baseball right now does anything better than he closes games.

Nor is anybody as mesmerizing.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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