2013 in brief: The only survivor of the three-headed Lilly/Harang/Capuano monster made 20 starts in between 75 injuries.
2014 status: Free agent after option was declined.
Remember how certain we were that Chris Capuano, or Aaron Harang, or Ted Lilly was going to get traded last winter? It seemed so obvious that none would be in the rotation that by February I was dreaming about Capuano being a lefty relief option. That’s exactly what did happen, at least for the first week of the year, but when Zack Greinke got run down, Capuano got the call to replace him… and lasted all of two innings before leaving with an injured calf.
That cost him nearly a month, and the main benefit of his return was that it finally forced Mark Ellis to the disabled list. Still, Capuano stuck in the rotation for the entire month of May, mixing two good starts (allowing single earned runs against Miami and Atlanta) with two lousy ones (five earned runs each against Arizona and St. Louis) and a decent one (three earned runs against the Angels).
Capuano briefly lost his rotation job when Ricky Nolasco arrived, with the plan being that he’d head to the bullpen. But that ended up not mattering because he injured his lat and went back to the disabled list for a second time, missing the first few weeks of June, then came back in the second game of a doubleheader in the Bronx. He was great, pitching six shutout innings, but it was just the start of one of the oddest stretches I can ever remember. For a stretch of nine consecutive starts, Capuano allowed either zero earned runs (five times)… or five (four times).
On August 9, before he gave up his final five-spot, I wrote about this absurdity at FanGraphs:
It’s a little simplistic to merely say “he’s been good” without adding some context there, and we’ll get to that in a second, but in eight starts since returning from that second injury, Capuano’s K/BB is 35/4. That, to be perfectly honest, is filthy, and he’s put up nothing but zeroes in five of his eight starts. So why isn’t the entire world digging into why Capuano has suddenly become Clayton Kershaw? It’s because of what’s happened in those other three starts:
As you can see, there’s not been a whole lot of middle ground there — he’s either great, or atrocious. When he gets hit hard, it hasn’t been because he’s lost his control, because each of those three lousy games featured a single walk apiece. It’s because he just gets hit very hard, allowing 10, 7, and 7 hits in the bad games, respectively.
Eventually, the streak ended, and so did his health: his third injury of the year came on September 6, when he left a game in Cincinnati after 1.2 innings due to a strained left groin. He’d return to throw two scoreless innings in relief appearances in the final week of the season, but never started again.
Still, his season wasn’t quite over yet. When Hyun-jin Ryu lasted just three innings in Game 3 of the NLDS, it was Capuano who came in with three scoreless innings to keep the team in the game, leading to what became a 13-6 blowout. Then, for some reason, he was left off the NLCS roster with Paco Rodriguez, because having Carlos Marmol and Edinson Volquez was apparently so much more important.
Following the season, Capuano’s 2014 option was declined, as expected, and he’s likely to sign elsewhere, with a chance to be a useful piece as a swingman. While Capuano was rarely healthy or consistent in his two years in Los Angeles, he did contribute 304 innings of 3.91 ERA ball. For $10 million, that’s a pretty reasonable return. So long, Chris.
Next! That was fun, Ricky Nolasco!