Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 13, 2011
BASEBALL: The New Cap
Let me tell you, spring training cannot come soon enough.
I'm actually talking myself into some measure of enthusiasm for the Mets' signing of Chris Capuano to be their, um, fourth third starter or third fourth starter, depending how you look at things.
It's hard to get too excited about Capuano; he has started just nine games in the past three seasons due to multiple Tommy John surgeries after going 5-12 with a 5.10 ERA (including a 6.08 ERA in his last 22 appearances, 18 of them starts, in which the Brewers went 0-22; they were 83-57 in their other games) in 2007. As with last season's acquisition of Kelvim Escobar, there's a decent chance that Capuano's health will prevent him from contributing anything at all (even if he comes to camp 100% healthy, guys with that kind of track record can unravel without warning).
That said, there is every reason to believe that Capuano can still pitch, if healthy. His per-9 averages of 1.2 HR, 2.9 BB and 7.4 K after his June return are consistent with a solid pitcher who can hold down a #3 spot in a decent rotation and are right in line with his career averages. And he has the best pickoff move in the NL, maybe in baseball, having allowed just 14 steals in 27 attempts in 777.2 career innings, while generating 62 double play balls; if the Mets can settle on a decent defensive second baseman, that could help him a lot. It's something of a concern that Capuano has had huge home-road splits; career at Miller Park he's allowed a homer every 35.7 plate appearances and opponents' batting average on balls in play is a very low .283, while on the road those numbers are a homer every 26.5 PA and a .322 BABIP. But while Miller Park may not be the best place for righthanded power hitters to hit, it's not a particularly severe pitchers' park, and the power alleys in Citi should help (then again, while NL Central pitchers spend a lot of their road games in tough hitters' parks, Capuano has pitched well over the years in Houston, Chicago and Cincinnati; where he's struggled has been New Busch and PNC. Capuano's never pitched at Citi Field).
Anyway, if healthy, Capuano seems a solid bet for a ERA below 4.50 (career xFIP, including pitching hurt in 2007: 4.27) and a respectable shot at an ERA in the mid to high threes, which is more than enough to hang around .500 with a decent offensive team and win a bunch of games with a good offense. For a scrap heap pickup with a base salary of $1.5 million, the Mets could do worse.