Player Profile: Chris Capuano

7 03 2008

Chris Capuano had a year last season that he would like to forget very, very quickly. He went on a rather obnoxious (to be frank) losing streak to end the season. He was a victim of bad luck, of poor location, and just a loss of confidence on the mound. Chris looks to bounce back to his All-Star form in 2006, and he may be able to lock up a spot in the rotation with a great spring.

’07 Stat Line

5-12 W-L, 5.10 ERA, 150.0 IP, 54 BB, 132 K

Strengths

Chris has one of the best change ups in the league. It sweeps and dives all over the plate, and his arm movement is largely the same whether he’s throwing a fastball or a change up. That makes it very difficult to pick up for a hitter. He rarely loses control with his change up, and he can locate it down in the zone very effectively. Chris has to be able to get to that pitch, though. He struggled in the second half of the season because he could not locate his fastball and could never get to his change up. Cappy has enough confidence to throw his change up in any count, but it is not effective unless he can spot his fastball.

Chris has one of the best pickoff moves in the game. Period. He did not use it to his advantage as much last season, but I think it is because no baserunner thought it was a good idea to leave the bag more than a step or two. He can neutralize a running game just by standing on the mound, and that is a big advantage when your team does not have a catcher with a very strong arm.

Putting all stats and abilities aside, Chris Capuano has one of the best, if not the best, training regiment of the Brewers pitchers. He is constantly working out, strengthening his body, so he does not get tired after high pitch counts. He is a model for younger pitchers who may not know what type of work ethic is needed to be a successful major league pitcher, and Chris is more than willing to take the younger kids under his wing. Whether Chris is pitching well or not, it does not affect his training regiment. He always works out the same…harder than anyone else.

Weaknesses

Based of off last season, Brewers fans should be worried about Cappy’s location. His favorite pitch to right-handed hitters is to bust them in on the hands with a fastball. Last year, however, Chris kept leaving it out over the plate, and major league hitters do not miss when a pitcher makes that type of mistake. His location issues with his fastball contributed to his increased walk total of ’07. After only walking 1.91 batters per 9 innings in 2006, his BB/9IP jumped to 3.24. Combine those numbers with the fact that he struck out fewer batters than in the past couple years. The 132 strike outs for Cappy is much lower than he is used to (even though he did pitch about 70 less innings last year than in 2006). Much of the decline in strike outs and the increase in batters walked is because Chris has the tendency to nibble around the strike zone when getting ahead in the count. He’d rather walk a batter than give up a home run. Which is fine in the short run, but he could not get back on track after walking a batter. He needs to be more aggressive and attack the strike zone more this season.

Chris had the “Dave Bush Syndrome” last season. He normally cruised through four or five innings relatively smoothly, and all the fans thought that he had found something he didn’t have in the past couple starts. Then, unexpectedly, Chris would just lose the strike zone, give up a couple home runs, or just give up a string of hits that would put the Brewers behind for good. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the struggle, other than the fact that it usually hit in the fifth or sixth inning. I began to just expect it by the end of the season. There should be no reason why Chris Capuano cannot get back to the form he had in 2005 and the beginning of 2006, but he needs to be a little more consistent and not give up the big inning.

Arsenal

Chris throws a very straight four-seem fastball that settles in at about 87-89 mph. He also throws a two-seamer, but he does not seem to have too much confidence in that pitch. I discussed his fantastic change up earlier in the post. One pitch that Cappy does have in the bag that he does not use is his slider. It seems to be a more loopy and sweeping version of his change up, but it could be a great way to keep the batters off balance the second or third time around the order. I would like to see Chris establish that slider earlier in the count or perhaps just earlier in the game.

Projections

ZiPS – 12-12 W-L, 4.48 ERA, 195 IP, 52 BB, 154 K
The Hardball Times – 9-9 W-L, 4.53 ERA, 160 IP, 54 BB, 126 K

The Hardball Times seems to think that either Chris Capuano is not going to make the starting rotation and join it after a couple months, or they think that Chris will lose his starting job in the middle of the season. ZiPS, on the other hand, project a fairly solid season for him. These numbers fit more with a fifth starter, and I think that is where Capuano projects at this point in his career. He is not overpowering enough to get away with his loss of control he had last season, and his change up is always on the batters’ minds now. He needs to get his fastball working on the corners to get back to his 2005-06 form.

I simply think that Chris has run his course in Milwaukee and is the most likely pitcher to be traded once Yovani Gallardo comes back from his injured knee. If he doesn’t get traded, expect him to be the long reliever for the team until he gets some of his mechanics fixed. He desperately needs a third pitch to compliment his fastball and change up, and until then, he will not be more than a fifth starter in the majors. Once it gets to the second or third time in the order, hitters know what is coming and sit on the fastball that’s coming early in the count. I expect Capuano’s walk rate to decrease a bit this year and his ERA to drop, but he will not get back to his All-Star form. I would love to be wrong about Chris, but he needs that third pitch to keep hitters honest.

Projected Stat Line: 7-6 W-L, 4.55 ERA, 138 IP, 45 BB, 110 K
Projected Season Rating (out of 10): 6.7

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