Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 14, 2008
BASEBALL: Domino Theory
Apparently the Brew Crew's signing of Mike Cameron - once he serves his 25-game suspension - is supposed to set off a domino effect on Milwaukee's defense, sending Ryan Braun to left and Bill Hall back to the infield, to third base, and Milwaukee writing off re-signing Geoff Jenkins. That's a good example of wise use of a veteran signing, since it lets the team put its quality young players in the right spots on the field.
Of course, probably the most urgent issue for the Brewers is getting Chris Capuano straightened out. Capuano battled a groin injury last year and recently had surgery on the labrum in his right (non-pitching) shoulder, but it's still unclear if injuries were at the root of his staggering collapse last season, in which he probably did more damage to a contending team than any player in the majors. Capuano entered 2007 looking like a potential breakout candidate after winning 18 games in 2005 and then cutting his walks in half in 2006 without losing strikeouts, and he was a big factor in Milwaukee's hot start, going 5-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his first seven starts, with 31 K, 13 BB and only 2 HR in 39 IP. But starting with a May 13 loss to the Mets, the wheels came completely off Capuano's game: 0-12 with a 6.08 ERA and the Brewers losing all 22 games (including 18 starts) he appeared in. Even base thieves, previously terrified of Capuano, went 6-0 against him.
But perhaps the two are related - was bad defense to blame? From 2005 through May 7 2007, Capuano averaged 1.16 HR/9, 2.84 BB/9, and 7.15 K/9; from May 13 on, it was 1.46 HR/9, 3.32 BB/9, and 8.19 K/9. A falloff in control and more homers, to be sure, but with a higher K rate that should have led at most to a mild off year, not a catastrophe. Yet, Capuano's H/9 soared from 8.86 to 11.27. Comparing 2007 to 2005/06 overall, his number of extra bases on doubles and triples per 9 IP actually dropped (2.51 to 2.16). Looking at the THT figures, as I did in Saturday's post, Capuano's DER dropped off to .670 from .717 and .705, and this despite a rise in his ground ball percentage (38.4 and 39.9 to 43%) and a drop in the number of line drives allowed (20.8 and 20.1 to 18.4). All of which suggests that perhaps Milwaukee's defense, especially the left side of the field (Braun and Jenkins), probably was very heavily at fault for turning a slight slippage by Capuano into a train wreck that ruined his confidence and got him exiled to the bullpen.