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Signed P-R Matt Capps to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million with an option for 2013. [12/5]
This is a move sure to draw some ire from the locals. It’s hard to blame a player for being involved in a poor signing or trade, but being acquired for Wilson Ramos put Capps on shaky footing to begin with among the Minnesota faithful. Of course, Capps did not help himself in 2011 by blowing nine saves after blowing 11 in the previous two seasons combined. The culprits? More home runs, and fewer strikeouts.
Optimists will point to Capps’s 2009 season as proof that he can bounce back from a down season. The comparison works on the home run level before falling apart at the strikeouts. Capps struck out a career-low 4.7 batters per nine innings pitched, although the reason for the dip is unclear. His fastball velocity did decline, but only slightly, and the other big change—more four-seamers instead of two-seamers—could be a classification artifact. There is some room for optimism in Capps’s home run rate, though.
In 2010, Capps allowed a home run to two percent of his batters faced. That rate increased to 3.7 percent in 2011. Even so, Capps’s percentage of hits allowed that went for extra bases barely moved (up to 29 percent from 28 percent). In other words, Capps’s home run problem did not bring with it an increased volume of extra-base hits, just a shift in distribution away from doubles and triples and to home runs. Generally, you would think a pitcher who is getting hit harder would be hit harder in volume, too. That isn’t the case here, so expecting Capps to rebound just comes down to whether you buy into his ability to regain his former strikeout form.
The Twins seem to think he can do it. With Joe Nathan in Texas, don’t be surprised if Capps spends time as their closer once again in 2012.
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Capps acknowledged that he pitched through pain last season, which may account for the increased HR rate and diminished K/9. Even if he returns to form, though, it's hard to justify paying him $4.75 million and giving up a sandwich pick in the process.