The precipice of success for athletes is one of those Wile E. Coyote situations. They're cruising along, all footloose and fancy free, ignorant to the cliff off which they're about to step. The drop is steep and harrowing, the sort that kicks you awake from a nightmare. Only it's not a cartoon.

Aroldis Chapman's freefall lasted nearly two months. He forgot how to throw a ball over a 17-inch-wide, house-shaped slab of white rubber, and while that's a minor inconvenience for most, it's Chapman's job. The Cincinnati Reds left-hander has been in the major leagues for less than a year since defecting from Cuba and signing a $30 million free-agent deal, and all he did in his debut season was throw the fastest pitch in baseball history at 105.1 mph.

His follow-up has been as deflating as his rookie year was entrancing. For eight weeks this year, he continued to fire a ball harder than anyone. He just didn't know where it was going.

"Everything was wrong," said Chapman, back in the major leagues, cured, for the time being, of what ailed him. "For a little while, I didn't know what was going on."

Sometimes it disappears. That's all Chapman can say. Sometimes the best athletes with the most transcendent skill sets simply forget how to do what they do so well. Control never was one of Chapman's fortes. Not back in Cuba, where he turned pro at 17, nor during his brief minor league stint last season, where the Reds shifted him from starting to the bullpen because they worried he couldn't throw enough strikes to last much beyond the fifth inning.

This, on the other hand, was a disaster of inconceivable proportions, among the worst three-game stretches ever from a pitcher – so bad it sent Chapman to the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, which really was the Reds' way of sparing him the embarrassment of a straight-up demotion.

Over that trio of games in May, Chapman faced 11 batters. He walked nine, hit one and recorded one out. Eight scored. He threw 54 pitches, and 41 missed the strike zone. Of the 13 strikes Chapman threw, none were swinging, perhaps the scariest number for a pitcher who generated swings and misses on nearly a quarter of his pitches in 2010. His month ended with eight straight balls that greased his track to the DL.

Baseball knows this affliction. Steve Blass. Mark Wohlers. Rick Ankiel. Dontrelle Willis. Right now, the Minnesota Twins' first-round pick last season, Alex Wimmers, can't throw a strike, and nobody knows why. Call it Steve Blass Disease or The Thing or whatever cute name sounds right. It cripples careers, and it strangled Chapman in May.

When the Reds suggested he try to take velocity off his fastball for the sake of command, he chafed. Chapman, after all, is the guy who registered vanity plates for his Lamborghini and Mercedes that said MPH102 and MPH101. He takes pride in his fastball the same way a fighter does his haymaker, and even if it misses, it's such a part of who he is Chapman seems disinclined to compromise.