The Chris Capuano rejuvenation tour made its second trip around the NL in 2012, and with it came similar results. Capuano appeared in the same number of games (33), but made two more starts than he had in 2011, leading to 12.1 more innings pitched, a 0.5 increase in WAR, and pretty much everything fell into place as it had in 2011.
In fact, the once-maligned Capuano showed durability which had eluded him since his 2005-06 stretch where he threw 440 innings in that two-year span. In fact, over the past two seasons Capuano has tossed 384.1 innings, good for 40th in that time frame. And while that may or may not make your socks roll up and down on their own, it essentially means that Capuano is among the most durable pitchers in that time frame despite only throwing 216 innings between 2007-2010 (272nd).
Among pitchers who’ve thrown fewer innings the last two seasons? Take a look: Zack Greinke, Doug Fister, Ryan Dempster, Jeremy Hellickson, Josh Beckett, and Aaron Harang. To me that’s at least a semblance of a list of who’s who among ‘durable’ or ‘really good’ pitchers, at least in the vein of Capuano and durability.
Capuano’s return to success has been by more or less returning to his roots, including throwing almost exactly as hard as he did in his early years. There isn’t an area where Capuano looks to be a liability; fair strikeout numbers, pretty decent on walks, keeps the ball in the yard just enough, and induces grounders at about 40%. As a result, his ERA and FIPs tend to stay really closely clumped — ‘07 and ‘11 seem to be the exceptions — and he’s basically good for the production that one might like out of a no. 3 or 4 starter.
My first question with Capuano would be where he’ll be pitching in 2013. The present MLB.com Dodgers depth chart lists him as the no. 6 starter, ahead of Ted Lilly and Harang, both of whom are veritable big league starters too. So something has to give, right?
Dodgers Stadium showed a pretty good tendency for home runs in 2012, but Capuano’s peripherals didn’t really indicate this, as his 2012 home run rate was actually below his career mark (one year samples be damned, I suppose). Like many lefties, Capuano is nasty to his left-handed counterparts but does struggle at times against righties (.273/.334/.469). As a result, it would seem like a good fit for Capuano to go to a RHH-suppressing environment. But then again, after digging into his numbers, he’s just been so doggedly consistent no matter where he’s pitched, it’s hard to know exactly how much he’d benefit.
Also knowing where Capuano ends up — be it LA or elsewhere — plays hugely into his value. When ZSanders ran his rankings for starting pitchers, Capuano was 37th, ahead of such pitchers as Fister, Jeff Samardzija, Mike Minor, C.J. Wilson, and even his own teammate Chad Billingsley. Throwing just under 200 innings and 12 wins will do that for you, though. If he winds up sticking in LA, there’s a good chance he could repeat those numbers and maybe even add a win or two; this is likely to be a pretty good year for the Dodgers at least on paper.
But there have also been talks of shipping Capuano out, with Pittsburgh listed as a destination. Plenty of pitchers pitched rather well in Steeltown last year — James McDonald definitely comes to mind — but had little to show for it. Then again, the addition of Francisco Liriano may well take the Bucs out of the mix. Nonetheless, the point remains: unless Capuano ends up in a bad place fantasy-wise — read: team unlikely to win too much — he should be very draftable as a second or third starter in your fantasy lineups.