To say it’s been an up-and-down season for Chris Capuano is putting it more than a little mildly. After a solid first half of 2012, Capuano fell apart down the stretch so badly that he entered 2013 as one of three excess Dodger starters, with little path back to relevance short of a trade. But then Chad Billingsley got hurt, and Zack Greinke got hurt, and Josh Beckett got hurt, and Ted Lilly got hurt, and Aaron Harang got traded — not necessarily all in that order — and Capuano found himself with a chance.
That lasted all of two innings on April 16 before he left with an injured calf, and when he returned in May, he made five starts of varying quality before landing on the disabled list for a second time, this due to a strained lat. Capuano rejoined the rotation in June, but was told he was headed to the bullpen when the Dodgers acquired Ricky Nolasco… only for that plan to be abandoned when Stephen Fife found himself sidelined with a sore shoulder hours later.
So after all that, Capuano is still in the rotation, and it brings us to this: Capuano has been really, really good lately, and he’s got an incredibly easy run of opponents lined up.
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.
So what’s the difference? Well, the June 28 start was his first after going on three days rest his previous time out, the first time he’d done that in years. That alone may not be enough to explain his lousy outings, but you can look at the July 4 game being in Colorado and the July 23 game being in the American League version of Coors Field — Toronto — and you start to understand it, somewhat.
Capuano has to start against David Price tonight, and that’s not a great matchup, but look at what’s coming for him after that, assuming the rotation stays on track. He’ll face the offensively-challenged Mets, now without David Wright, at home. He’ll get to go to Miami to see the historically awful Marlins offense, then avoid the Red Sox series and face the Cubs instead, back at Dodger Stadium. Then he’ll face the Padres, and if he’s ever so lucky, get skipped for the return trip to Colorado in the first week of August.
Clearly, he’s not going to continue to throw zeroes forever, but he’s long been a reasonably effective starter with the ability to miss some bats, and he’s suddenly backed by a red-hot team. The veteran lefty is owned in just 1.3% of ESPN leagues, 7% at Yahoo, and 12% in CBS, and so that makes him essentially free. Considering that K/BB and the light offenses he’s going to face, it’s worth giving him a shot as you make that playoff push.
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