Pretty much all I got from the Ace Ventura sequel was a hilarious scene with a robotic rhino and what guano was. Jim Carrey is such a teacher.
Just as Ace Ventura cornered the pet detective racket, so has Dr. James Andrews the Tommy John surgery profession. Chris Capuano is due to receive a free ligament replacement on his Andrews Clinic punch card after receiving two procedures in 2002 and 2008 (two notes – first I wish him no harm and second I have no idea if Andrews was actually the surgeon). After up and down seasons in half of 2010 with the Brewers and an inconsistent 2011 with the Mets (Capuano did show signs of quality back-end of the rotation stuff with a 8.13 K per 9 in 31 starts), Capuano got a pretty nice chunk of change, signing a two-year deal worth $10 million with the Dodgers.
One of the most surprising pitchers through the first two months of the season, Capuano dazzled with nearly a strikeout per inning and an ERA of 2.14. However, June has not been as welcoming as Cappy has given up 4 ERs in each of his past two starts. Owned in 85% of Yahoo leagues and in every ESPN league, is Capuano droppable?
I streamed Capuano in a start early in the season in a 10-team league and let him go, only to see his success go unwavering until his past two starts. So I decided to tune in during the Battle of Los Angeles to see how he’s looking and if his past two outings were a sign of things to come or an insignificant blip on a resurgent season:
First Inning: Capuano’s first pitch is an 87-MPH fastball taken for a strike by leadoff phenom Mike Trout. Obligatory man crush admission for Trout. After one fouled straight back, Capuano rears back and hits 90 on the gun and gets Trout swinging on three pitches. Nice way to start. Capuano gets Torii Hunter to foul off the first pitch, but the next one is shot right back to the mound and through the gap for a single. Out of nowhere Torii Hunter is suddenly one of the hottest hitters in baseball. After two checks on Hunter, Capuano starts Pujols with a strike on the outer edge, 0-1. Pujols has absolutely crushed Capuano in his career, going 18 for 35 for an average of .545. Capuano gets Pujols to foul one off, but the 0-2 is ripped past short for consecutive singles. Cappy starts Mark Trumbo with a big curveball at 76-MPH that dips low, 1-0. If the curve works like that all night, he could do some damage. He throws virtually the same pitch for 2-0, and then Trumbo sits on the fastball but hits it foul, 2-1. Capuano goes too far inside and then tries a change-up at 79-MPH, but it’s low and outside and he loses Trumbo. Early bases loaded jam for Capuano. This time he starts with the fastball to Howie Kendrick and it barely falls low, 0-1, but the next fastball is grounded weakly to short and Kendrick hits into an inning-ending double play. Huge double play there keeps the clean sheet.
Second Inning: With two runs of support early, which from an offense sans Matt Kemp is a godsend, Capuano starts Alberto Callaspo with a fastball to go up 0-1. The next pitch is lifted on a lazy popup to right, one down. Great quick out to hopefully get things back on track. Again up 0-1 on Erick Aybar, who lays it down on the third base side with Elian Hererra playing back, and Aybar reaches on a bunt single. A quick out followed by a 0-1 single eerily mimics the first inning. John Hester then flares a 1-1 pitch just out of the reach of Dee Gordon, and it’s consecutive singles again after a quick out. Weird. Up now is Garrett Richards showing bunt, but Capuano falls behind 2-1. After missing a bunt for a strike, Richard pulls back the bat and tries to swing and misses. Two Ks for Cappy. Back to the top of the order, and Capuano goes with a curveball just off the outer edge, 1-0. Trout had trouble with the fastball in his first at bat, I’m surprised Capuano didn’t go with it again. The 1-0 is a fastball low, and down 2-0 on the dangerous Trout garners a visit from A.J. Ellis. The 2-0 fastball is an 87-MPH cookie down the middle, but Trout fouls it out of play. Boy, I bet Trout wishes he had that one back. The next pitch is a 78-MPH change that Trout laces to left but it’s right at Bobby Abreu and the inning is over. Some pretty stressful innings early on, but still only 31 pitches deep.
Third Inning: The first pitch of the 3rd inning is an 83-MPH change-up low to Hunter, 1-0. After dropping a curveball in there, the 1-1 is crushed to deep center, but Tony Gwynn Jr. is able to catch it at the track on the dead run. Hunter is swinging a very, very hot bat right now — go pick him up if you can. Capuano gets ahead of Pujols 0-1 and the next pitch is grounded weakly into the shift and it’s two-down. Capuano again falls behind Trumbo 2-0 with low fastballs, and the 2-1 is chopped right back up the middle for a bouncing single. Already his fifth hit allowed, but all have been singles. Capuano is again behind 1-0 to Kendrick, then 2-0 on a curveball in the dirt. The curve is breaking for Capuano, but it’s predominantly in the dirt, even when he’s trying to throw it for strikes, and not complementing his stuff like it should. The next pitch is a fastball low; then the next one way outside, and it’s a 4-pitch walk. Five hits and two walks is a WHIP-killing opening, but it’s still a 0 on the scoreboard with a two run lead. Capuano needs an out here versus Callaspo. Capuano again finds himself behind 2-0, and the next pitch is a fastball way inside, 3-0. Capuano has got something way funky going on with his release point right now. He keeps himself alive with a strike barely on the inside corner; then he goes with a change-up that misses way low for his third walk. Capuano starts Aybar with a curveball that barely stays in the zone, 0-1. Gutsy pitch there. The next pitch is hit on the ground to second, and the force play gets Capuano out of yet another bases loaded jam. Tough start but still no runs given up.
Fourth Inning: 51 pitches in and Capuano opens with an 87-MPH fastball just off the plate to Hester. The 2-1 is a fastball that rolls too high, 3-1, then Capuano gets a borderline strike call to work it full. The next pitch looked almost identical, but it’s called a ball and it’s a leadoff walk. On the 1-1, Richards dribbles into a tailor-made double play, but Dee Gordon drops the toss from Jerry Hairston, Jr. and only the lead runner is out. On the 1-1 to Trout, Capuano is able to use his excellent pickoff move to pick off Richards. How can a pitcher get picked off at first? Then the next pitch is CRUSHED! And I mean crushed. Trout laces it on a hanging curveball right down the middle and the homer makes it 2-1. And how big is that pickoff of Richards. It would’ve been a tied game. Capuano is able to get right back into the zone with a fastball; then a swing-and-miss on a change-up, but then Hunter hammers a fastball that catches too much of the plate down the line and off of Herrera’s glove at third for a double. That was hit really hard, you can’t fault the third baseman there. And all the sudden Capuano’s hits are turning into extra base hits. Pujols sits on a first-pitch fastball and gets it, but it’s skied to right and caught for the third out.
Fifth Inning: Even though it’s been a rough, rough outing, Capuano is still supporting a lead on only 67 pitches. He again falls behind Trumbo 1-0, but works it back to 1-2 and gets him to hack on an emergency swing and ground out weakly to short. Capuano gets ahead of Kendrick 0-1; then Kendrick taps one that dies on the first base line, and even though Capuano slips while fielding the ball, he’s able to throw him out, two down. At 1-1 to Callaspo, Capuano loses a curveball low and then again is low, 3-1, but works it full before Callaspo grounds out on a curveball in the zone for his first one, two, three inning.
Sixth Inning: Capuano starts the 6th ahead on Aybar, but the 2-1 fastball is ripped down the third base line for a leadoff double. Falling behind Hester 1-0, Capuano is up high with a hanging curveball, 2-0. After a moment, A.J. Ellis decides to come out for a chat. Capuano is now at 86 pitches and out comes Don Mattingly. And Mattingly has seen enough and takes out Capuano on a double-switch mid-at-bat. You don’t see that every day. Aybar would eventually come around to score, and so closes the book on a rough, rough outing.
Final Line: ND 5+ Innings 86 Pitches (51 strikes)
8 Hits 4 Walks 2 ERs 2 Ks
Final Analysis: A really, really brutal outing from Capuano, that, if you only look at ERA didn’t appear so, but by virtually every other metric was horrendous. Something is really jacked up with Capuano’s release point right now. His fastball is sitting where it has been the past few years since his second Tommy John, and the curveball and change are both breaking as they should.
However, for as much as the pitches are breaking, Capuano’s location hitter-to-hitter is all over the place. He gave up a 4-pitch and two 5-pitch walks as a result of lacking command. His walk rate entering last night’s game was at 3.19 per 9 that will only keep rising if Capuano continues to have problems with his release point.
Going hand-in-hand with command issues leading to walks is the trouble with maintaining a high K-rate. Capuano’s change-up and curveball are not effective when paired with a fastball that struggled to consistently find its spot and when both breaking pitches were consistently off the plate. I have some trouble seeing Capuano keeping up his K-rate unless some major adjustments get his command to where it seemingly was during his torrid start.
If you got Capuano early and benefitted from two months of sheer dominance, it’s going to be hard to think of Capuano as cuttable. But from what I saw last night, there has got to be some better options out there unless you’re in deep 14 or 16-man mixed or NL-only leagues. He just doesn’t have his command right now, and with a .228 BABIP entering last night, I’ve got to think he’s been getting pretty lucky. There’s always a chance you can sneak him in a package trade, but there’s no way Capuano is more than a spot starter right now.