Chris Capuano: the Happy Medium?

1024px-Cap== Very much average (that’s a good thing) ==

Now that the Ubaldo Jimenez domino has fallen, the rumor mill shifted quickly to link the Mariners to Chris Capuano.

No complaints here.

Capuano is not tied to a draft pick, and seems to be in line for a salary that won’t bust the bank.  He might even settle for a one-year deal.

Left-handed Capuano’s biggest problem has been staying healthy.  He missed all of 2008 and 2009, and battled injuries again in 2013.

But when he’s on the mound … he’s very close to  unmitigated average-ness.  We love it!

He throws an upper-80s sinking fastball, and mixes in a change and slider.  Both the sinker and change are considered to have above-average movement.

Let’s run Cap through our Brainstorm ratings:

Year Age Team PSA+ Conv+ Composite
2003 24 ARI 104 112 116
2004 25 MIL 84 78 62
2005 26 MIL 88 93 81
2006 27 MIL 118 93 110
2007 28 MIL 104 100 104
2010 31 MIL 104 93 97
2011 32 NYM 113 93 106
2012 33 LAD 116 105 122
2013 34 LAD 119 99 118

PSA+ is our measure of “inducing non-random outs” and Conv+ is our measure of “denying non-random offense.  “Composite” is the combination of the two.  The 100 rating is linked to the 10-year MLB average.

What you can see is that Capuano is (since 2006) consistently above-average at getting outs, but (mostly) slightly below average at avoiding getting hit hard.  [His composites run somewhat over 100, but I’ve found that PSA+ tends to run higher than Conv+, and that can skew the results when a guy is right around 100, but …]

The bottom line is: he throws strikes, doesn’t hurt himself with walks, and is likely to have a slightly above-average strikeout rate.

But the downside of that “pound-the-zone” approach — if you don’t have “lights-out” stuff — is you’re going to get hit by good hitters.  Thus, Cap’s HR-allowed and XBH-allowed rates run consistently below-average (I mean, above-average numerically, which is bad for the pitcher).

Also with the low BB-rate and non-sky-high K-rate, he’s going to have a lot of balls put in play.  So let’s see how Capuano’s BABIP relates to his results on the field:

Year BABIP ERA+
2003 0.264 102
2004 0.303 88
2005 0.290 107
2006 0.299 113
2007 0.337 87
2010 0.295 102
2011 0.317 81
2012 0.292 102
2013 0.340 84

What do you know!  A perfect correlation!  BABIP under .300, ERA+ 100 or better.  BABIP over .300, ERA+ under 100 (though it’s close sometimes, and doesn’t account for all the variation).

It’s fair to say that teams don’t like random-ness (“nasty stuff” can eliminate a lot of which), and are probably somewhat biased against pitchers who give up a lot of home runs (which lose ball games in the real world), so that probably accounts for some of Capuano’s availability and relative inexpensiveness.

But, if healthy, Capuano’s pitches have enough movement that he can pound the zone and not get obliterated.  And, as such, he looks like a good bet to give you what you’re paying for (assuming you “price in” the variation resulting from balls in play).

A better bet than the overpriced Ervin Santana anyway.

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3 thoughts on “Chris Capuano: the Happy Medium?

  1. If, as you say, he has a lot of balls put in play, also presuming a heavy right-handed lineup against, while I’m not terribly concerned about the infield defense part of this equation will an outfield of L-C-R being Ackley, Saunders, Hart/Morrison be sufficient to run down the presumed XBH’s? Do we now figure Almonte makes the team with Guti out, and the OF consists of Ack, Condor, and Abe on the days he pitches?

    Or even Hart, Saunders, and (shudder) Cruz? I admit my knowledge of the National League teams could be improved upon so I don’t have a handle on the defensive rankings of his past teams.

  2. Good points, Brent. Yes, if no Cruz, then Almonte is probably makes the team barring a trade. I don’t think you’ll see both Hart and LoMo in the OF together much — unless they end up with Cruz or Morales and keep everyone, then you’d probably have to sometimes. But I think they envision Hart and LoMo rotating through DH, 1b and RF. You’ll probably see some Bloomquist in the OF too, and possibly even Franklin if he’s on the MLB roster.

    Hopefully, McClendon will understand the defensive needs in the OF maybe better than Wedge seemed to.

  3. If Capuano is added and Cruz shunned, then I call it a magnificent offseason.
    Aside from the obvious, Walker stayed, Franklin was retained for a midseason deal…and there should also be money in the bank for the midseason pick-up–which I full expect we’ll be talking about.

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