How Blue Jays pitchers will benefit from Matt Chapman's elite defence

Take a look back at the best moments from Matt Chapman's career with the Oakland Athletics.

When the Toronto Blue Jays traded for Matt Chapman on Wednesday, they acquired one of the great defensive players in the game.

Although Chapman’s bat comes with a degree of uncertainty, his ability to turn batted balls into outs is beyond reproach. The 28-year-old has won three Gold Gloves, two Platinum Gloves, and finds himself at the top of defensive metric leaderboards since he broke into
the majors in 2017.

When it comes to the hot corner over the last five years it is Chapman, Nolan Arenado, a significant gap, then everyone else:

This is excellent news for a number of Blue Jays pitchers — foremost among them Hyun-Jin Ryu, who allows more balls in play than average, generates high groundball rates, and has faced right-handed hitters 79.6 per cent of the time since signing in Toronto. That means a tonne of grounders to third:

Although his higher strikeout rate means few balls in play, the same premise applies to new addition Yusei Kikuchi:

While Ryu and Kikuchi stand to benefit the most from Chapman’s presence, they won’t be the only ones. Not only will each pitcher on the Blue Jays staff get to enjoy a human vacuum behind them at third, so will his compatriot on the left side of the infield, Bo Bichette.

Bichette’s play at shortstop has been uneven at times, but with Chapman on board, his life will be made significantly easier. Looking at Chapman’s directional Outs Above Average it’s clear that he excels covering ground towards the shortstop side.

The fact that much of Chapman’s defensive production comes from coming in on balls isn’t surprising considering his position, and for the record he’s not someone you want to bunt on…

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

… but the way he expands the traditional area of his position is arguably more special.

Chapman positions himself deeper than most third baseman (in 2020 he was the deepest third baseman at 124 feet, last season he was at 121, one foot behind the leaders), giving himself more time to react and range into the gap for big plays.

Take this double play from his rookie season, for instance:

Not only are his fielding actions and throw smooth and efficient, but that’s a ball that most third baseman simply don’t touch.

Chapman is exceedingly ambitious and unafraid to stray far from his home at third base if he feels there’s a play to be made. Off the bat this ball looks like it’s heading directly for the shortstop, but it’s travelling slowly and Phil Gosselin has 95th percentile Sprint Speed so Chapman goes all out for a dramatic inning-ender.

Even identifying a couple of the things Chapman does with the glove feels like short-changing him to some degree, because the reality is that he stands out in just about every area. This play is a good example of all the tools he brings to the table:

This is a tough ball to corral off a massive hop, but Chapman does it with ease, sets his feet instantly, and throws a comically-accurate frozen rope to the plate to get his man by a mile. That play has so many moving parts to fit together in such a short time — and he makes it look elementary.

Chapman’s presence alone won’t make the Blue Jays an elite defensive team. That still doesn’t project to be this club’s strength. No single addition could’ve done more to strengthen that area of the team, though. While some Blue Jays pitchers will gain more than others from this move, all of them can sleep a little easier knowing there’s a defender capable of snowconing a 105.5 m.p.h. liner like this standing behind them.

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