How concerned should SF Giants fans be with Matt Chapman's slow start?

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Matt Chapman's tenure with the SF Giants is off to an abysmal start. Is it too soon to make a judgment on his performance? How concerned should Giants fans be?

How concerned should SF Giants fans be with Matt Chapman's slow start?

I should preface this by saying that it is still early in the year. The Giants have not even played 40 games yet, so there is plenty of time for Chapman to turn it around.

The righty bat has not made a good first impression, slashing .209/.257/.345 (74 wRC+) with four home runs, 14 RBI, and 17 runs in 148 plate appearances. The Giants had hoped that he would hit in the middle of the order, but manager Bob Melvin has already slid him down to the sixth spot in the lineup.

There were plenty of concerns about Chapman's declining bat even before he signed with the Giants. He has not done much to quell those concerns.

The first thing that stands out is the plate discipline issues. Chapman has posted a 27.7 percent strikeout rate and a 5.4 percent walk rate in 2024. The strikeout rate is right around his career mark, so some swing and miss is to be expected. Though, the walk rate is well below his career rate of 10.4 percent.

When you combine a low batting average with a low walk rate, you have a player who is just not reaching base at an acceptable rate.

The once-patient hitter is chasing out of the zone more than ever before. He has a 33 percent chase rate, which is a percentage of pitches swung at outside of the strike zone. The strike zone is the strike zone for a reason. Hitters have a chance against those pitches, but if they swing at pitches outside of the zone, that is not usually a good swing decision.

A number that has been on the decline for years now is how he is performing against fastballs. Chapman has tallied a .232 batting average with a .341 slugging percentage against fastballs in 2024. That is down from a .252 batting average and a .469 slugging percentage just last season. Players have to be able to hit velocity in today's game and Chapman is just not doing it. This is a concerning trend for someone who is now on the other side of 30.

Lastly, the eight-year veteran is not pulling the ball in the air with as much regularity as he once did. Perhaps, this issue is loosely tied to his struggles against velocity as it could be seen as a sign of declining bat speed.

Chapman's pull rate is at 33 percent on the year, down from a career norm of 41.4 percent. However, he is only pulling line drives and fly balls to a 27.6 percent clip so far in 2024. Much of his contact in the air is going the other way, which dampens his overall numbers. It is great that he is using the opposite field, but pulling the ball in the air is still the best outcome.

Why is that important? Hitters have a 1.209 (yes, 1.209) slugging percentage on balls pulled in the air. That leads to extra bases and home runs at a higher rate than just about every other outcome. Chapman is not doing that nearly enough. It was something he excelled at earlier in his career. It is pretty clear that he is no longer the hitter he was during his days with the Oakland A's.

The Giants do not need that hitter. They need him to be better than what he has been so far. In fairness to the veteran bat, he is still making hard contact, posting a 92.3 percent average exit velocity this season. However, he is not barreling up pitches as much as he has in the past, meaning that he does not have much to show for his hard contact. How concerned should the Giants be? Given these signs, there is at least a moderate level of concern. Perhaps, even higher than that.