2013 Dodgers in Review #31: SP Chris Capuano

90topps_chriscapuano4.26 ERA / 3.55 FIP 105.2 IP 6.90 K/9 2.04 BB/9 (B)

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.

Previous: 2012

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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:

capuano_earnedruns

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.

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Next! That was fun, Ricky Nolasco!

So Long, Chris Capuano & Mark Ellis

capuano_2013-05-24Well, so much for that. According to the Dodgers, the team has declined the 2014 options on both Mark Ellis and Chris Capuano. We knew that would happen to Capuano, but there were defensible reasons to wonder if Ellis might stick. Either or both could still return, of course, and the first five days after the World Series are reserved for teams to exclusively negotiate with their own players, but after that they are free to the world.

The Dodgers now have 33 on the 40-man roster, which includes the five who were on the 60-day disabled list and removes the 12 who became free agents today.

Pretending I’m Not Worried About Hyun-jin Ryu’s Bullpen Session

ryu_dark_2013-04-17

I wanted to do a review of whether Dee Gordon was safe his in steal attempt in the ninth inning last night, but Tom Hoffarth of the LA Daily News did such a thorough breakdown (as did Eric Stephen at TrueBlueLA) that I’m not even sure what I’d add, other than to say this: the play was so, so close that after dozens of replays, I still can’t say definitively whether he was safe or out. That being the case, it’s hard for me to rip the umpire for the call he made. Dodger fans think he was safe, Braves fans think he was out, and everyone’s got a little bias. There’s no guarantee that Gordon would have ended up scoring, anyway.

Due to the loss — which again, is largely on Don Mattingly, but not entirely —  Sunday’s Game 3 takes on all that much more importance. Hyun-jin Ryu against fellow rookie Julio Teheran is a really good matchup, because both have had solid debut seasons and will probably finish in the 3-5 range in a stacked NL rookie field. Over Ryu’s last five starts, he’s got a 21/4 K/BB; over Teheran’s, it’s 30/6 (though Ryu has done slightly better at keeping run off the board).

After two days of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and the likelihood of Atlanta throwing out Freddy Garcia in Game 4, this is probably the only one in the series where I don’t feel the Dodgers have a clear pitching edge, and… what… what? No.

For example, Ryu worked out this week with a compression sleeve on his left elbow. He also threw a bullpen session Friday with team surgeon Neal ElAttrache, medical director Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly watching.

Ryu generally does not throw bullpen sessions between starts, and especially not two days before a start. He appeared to throw without discomfort.

I don’t want to cause a panic, because clearly I’m no doctor and I’m not in the room. But as that Ken Gurnick quote indicates, this is a guy who almost never throws bullpen sessions. When he does, I’m thinking it’s safe to guess that he usually doesn’t do so with one of the most renowned surgeons in the country watching him. So I don’t think it’s unfair to wonder if A) he can even go and B) what sort of strength he’ll be at if he can. It’s not exactly the conversation you want to be having tied at one in a five-game playoff series.

Backup catcher Tim Federowicz caught that session and reported it was positive…

…but while that’s nice to hear, you don’t really expect the catcher to come out and announce to the world that the Game 3 starter is falling apart and has nothing on his pitches. (I’m not saying that’s the case, of course; Ryu might very well have been throwing well. Just saying that Federowicz can’t really be taken at face value here.)

If not Ryu, then we’re probably looking at Chris Capuano, who hasn’t started since going only 1.2 innings on September 6 before leaving with a groin injury, his 92nd injury of the season; when he returned, Edinson Volquez had essentially taken his job. Now Volquez isn’t on the roster, and Capuano is a massive step down from Ryu, should that be what happens. (Ricky Nolasco could also move up from Game 4, if it is determined that Ryu needs an extra day.)

As I head off to the airport to see Game 3, I’m more than a little curious about who I’m going to see on the hill.

Reds 3, Dodgers 2: Thus Ends Chris Capuano?

capuano_atlanta_2013-05-19

For what feels like the 40th time this year, Chris Capuano comes down with a poorly-timed injury, this time a strained left groin that forced him out of the game after just 1.2 innings. Thanks to that, this quickly turned into a bullpen game, with six Dodger relievers combining to pick up the slack.

While this ended up being a 3-2 loss, it actually wasn’t because of the unexpected pitching mess, because only J.P. Howell, who allowed a Joey Votto dinger that provided the winning runs, really got hurt badly. (He says, trying not to acknowledge that Paco Rodriguez faced three hitters and retired none.) Stephen Fife made his first appearance in more than a month, and while he wasn’t particularly impressive, he at least showed enough that you wonder if he’ll be taking this start the next time Capuano’s spot comes up, or at least Edison Volquez otherwise. Chris Withrow was extremely impressive in striking out five of six.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers managed only five hits off Mike Leake and friends, and one of those was a Dee Gordon bunt that hit him in the back of the neck on the throw to first. Hanley Ramirez hit a second-deck blast in the first inning, but that was all they could manage. Other than Ramirez’ two hits, Yasiel Puig‘s infield single represented all the damage from the starting lineup. With the meat of the order up in the ninth inning looking to tie, Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman absolutely blew away Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, and Ramirez.

At least Atlanta lost to the Phillies, so the Dodgers don’t lose ground in the battle for the top seed, and it’s hard to get too upset over a game where your starter managed just five outs. Still, Leake’s good but he’s not that good, and the offense hasn’t exactly been on fire lately. Fortunately, top hitters Clayton Kershaw & Zack Greinke are lined up for the weekend. And, best of all: no more Eric Collins & Steve Lyons in 2013! If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is.

Red Sox 8, Dodgers 1: That’s the Jake Peavy I Remember

capuano_shadows_2013-08-25“Three runs over five innings” is about the best most teams can expect from their fifth starter, especially against a good Boston lineup, so it’s hard to get on Chris Capuano too badly for this one. Chris Withrow  and Brandon League certainly didn’t make it any better, of course, but it really doesn’t matter because the Dodgers got a look at vintage Jake Peavy tonight, the one who used to dominate them endlessly back when he was at the top of his game with San Diego.

Peavy made just a single mistake tonight, a fourth inning homer to Adrian Gonzalez — which had to be fun against his old team — but was otherwise masterful. Carl Crawford managed to single, and so did Skip Schumaker… and, other than an A.J. Ellis walk, that was it. Not once did the Dodgers get more than one runner on base, and while that’s disappointing from this lineup, all you can really do is shake your head and credit Peavy for a master class in the art of pitching.

Having dropped two of three to Boston, the Dodgers lost their first series since dropping two of three to Pittsburgh back between June 16-18, more than two months and 18 series ago. Though they’re just 4-4 in their last eight games, they’re still up by 9.5 over Arizona, so I think it’s going to be okay, especially when the Cubs have to face Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw this week.