It’s been a tough year for Matt Chapman.
In 2018-19 he was a superstar-caliber player, finishing Top 10 in MVP voting each season. But last summer was cut short by a significant injury, in the form of a torn hip labrum that required surgery. He’d return to action in time for the 2021 campaign, but not necessarily full strength.
Indeed, Chapman got off to a slow start. By the end of May he was batting just .203 without much power, resulting in a poor 89 wRC+ mark. His strikeout rate was through the roof, and indeed he led all of MLB in Ks until this week when Joey Gallo passed him. Even on defense, the eyeball test saw more mistakes than we were used to from the two-time Platinum Glover.
But there was never a shortage of reasons for optimism. We’d all seen what Chapman is physically capable of, and he’s still in the thick of his prime at age 28. What’s more, his particular injury brought with it some long-term context.
LOL. Yes, it is. It can take up to a year for metrics to normalize after the type of surgery Chapman had. The best study in MLB players showed no overall difference in performance pre and post surgery but the mean RTP was 8.3 ± 4.1 months; Chapman is still on the early side.— Dr. Nirav Pandya, MD (@DrNiravPandya) June 2, 2021
The operation took place in mid-September, so that tweet came a little over eight months later. More patience was clearly justified.
Chapman heated up in June, including a 16-game hitting streak and a 138 wRC+ for the month. But he fell back down in July, with a 54 wRC+, a new spike in strikeouts, and poor Statcast metrics.
That brings us to August, and in particular the A’s latest road trip. He played all 10 games and posted monster production.
- Chapman, last 10 gms: .400/.550/.900, 5 HR, 10 BB, 9 Ks, .484 xwOBA
It’s only 40 plate appearances, but he hasn’t done anything remotely like it all year. He had a good week in mid-April, and his streak in mid-June, but even those still carried shaky BB/K rates. Now he’s getting a better handle on the zone and flashing power. He even tied a franchise record by walking five times in one game.
What’s more, last weekend he posted a vintage defensive gem, the kind we were once accustomed to seeing from him on the regular. He hit two dingers in this game too, giving us a glimpse of the old Chaptain America.
Of course, none of this means he’s suddenly perfect. A couple days later he made a costly defensive miscue, and in that same game he had a couple chances to be clutch at the plate but struck out instead.
But in terms of showing signs of heating up after a lengthy recovery from a major surgery? The A’s had a tough road trip overall, but Chapman was certainly a bright spot to get excited about moving forward.