Last week, we discussed how Matt Chapman is the best defensive player in all of MLB. Not just the best at third base, but out of everyone at any position. He makes an amazing play in nearly every game, and he’s absolutely broken the advanced metrics.
Chapman cranked it up another notch on Monday. We’ve marveled at his handiwork before since he arrived last summer, including here and here and here and here. But the highlights in those posts are mostly supersized versions of normal human plays, like diving a little farther past the 3B line, or running extra distance for a foul popup, or making a particularly strong throw. They fit the construct of what we’re used to seeing MLB defenders do, but just a bit better.
Against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, he made a couple plays I’ve never seen before. He’s inventing new ways to rob batters of hits.
The first one came in the 4th inning. With the A’s shifting hard toward the right side, Yangervis Solarte attempted to bunt up the 3B line. It’s something fans always wish batters would do more often to bust the shift and get a free hit, and Solarte not only went for it but laid down a beauty. Chapman was the only infielder on the left side of 2B, positioned a few steps up the middle from where the SS would normally stand. There is no way he should have been able to make this play, but he did anyway.
I’ve never seen that before. That’s essentially a shortstop charging in to field a ball that the 3B usually gets, then throwing to a base that is more or less behind him as he sprints the wrong way. Fellow elite fielder Matt Olson helped out with a nice dig at 1B, and Solarte is one of the slower players in the game, but none of that takes away from what Chapman did. It’s not like we normally see shortstops make this play but miss the out by a step, or skip the throw past the 1B. The fact that he got to the ball, made a throw at all at that angle, and put it within reach of Olson is simply stunning.
Chapman struck again in the 8th inning, once more at the expense of Solarte. Oakland’s shift was somewhat less pronounced this time, perhaps thanks to the previous bunt attempt, but Chapman was still relatively out of position. Solarte hit a proper grounder to the spot where a 3B would normally be playing, but Chapman had to range several steps to get it from where he’d been standing. On top of that, he also had to range back toward the outfield, increasing the difficulty of the angle on the throw. Didn’t matter, though.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. I’ve seen a lot of third basemen make great plays moving toward the line, but not running toward the outfield like that. It was like a Jeter jump-throw, but from 3B instead of SS. For some reason Solarte gave up at the end and stopped running — possibly his soul was simply crushed at this point? — but I don’t think that changed anything. He didn’t slow up until Olson was already squeezing the ball, with two full steps left to go.
Forget the Gold Glove. That award isn’t gonna be enough to contain Matt Chapman. He’s aiming higher, and the league needs to start designing a Platinum Glove for him.