2012 Dodgers Player Profile: Chris Capuano, Lefty Heaver With Knife Fever

Bunting is still important for National League pitchers. Chris Capuano learns from a master, Maury Wills, how not to bunt a ball up into his eye.

If he can stay healthy, Chris Capuano may be a stable presence as the fifth starter in the Dodgers 2012 pitching rotation. Of course for Capuano staying healthy has always been the challenge.

2012 Dodgers Player Profiles
This continues our series of 2012 player profiles, where we will analyze one player per day, between now and the end of spring training. This is also the spot for our community projections, so be sure to give us your predictions for each player for this season in the comments section.

The left-handed starting pitcher was an Arizona Diamondbacks farmhand and former second-round draft pick the first time he had his ulnar collateral ligament replaced via Tommy John surgery. After being included in a trade package for Richie Sexson, Capuano struggled down the stretch for the Milwaukee Breweres in 2007. Apparently he was less than 100% as he had surgery for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that off-season, only to tear his UCL again the following spring, consequently missing two full major league seasons (2008-2009). In 2010 he made seven minor league starts before returning to a major-league roster in June.

However, Capuano feels ready to attack the 2012 season head on. Speaking to reporters yesterday after pitching in the Dodgers intersquad game, he remarked,

"The last two offseasons have been normal in terms of being able to train as much as I want to with no restrictions. Really the last two offseasons from the throwing, the lifting, and working out standpoint, have been great, with no issues."

and he feels that he is in a better frame of mind now, having had those injury experiences,

"After what I went through, missing 2008 and 2009, I had to come to a certain sense of peace to say whatever happens I'm okay with it. Now, I just enjoy every day I'm out here. When you're injured, you can't imagine what it's like to be better, but when you're feeling good you don't ever thing about getting hurt."

Being able to complete a full season last year with the New York Mets helped provide Capuano with both a new two-year contract, and some reinforcement from baseball management:

"It's one thing for me to say at 33 I feel as good and as strong as I did at 25, but it's another thing for a team to look at what you've done the past couple years and think that to by the way you look. It's good validation for a lot of hard work."

The Duke alumnus may be a thinking man's pitcher, having been the valedictorian in his class and graduating with a degree in economics. However, when questioned by reporters about his smarts, he downplayed it with a laugh:

"I've been accused of being book smart but not street smart."

Capuano's fastball averages under 88 mph, so he mixes in sliders and changeups for over 40% of his pitches. While he has been able to manage his pitch repertoire to outthink batters to a career 7.5 K/9 rate, he has also been susceptible to the longball with a HR/9 rate of 1.3. On another aspect of mind games, the lefty has a reputation for holding runners on base well, leading the majors in 2005 with 12 pickoffs of base runners.

While he has a justified reputation as a fly-ball pitcher, Fangraph's Dave Cameron did note that Capuano has an unusual split, where he is very much a fly-ball pitcher against right-handed batters (37% prior to 2011), but transforms into a ground-ball pitchers versus his fellow southpaws (54%).

Trivia

Capuano is married to the former Sarah Clifford, who was a heptathlete at Duke. The rumors that Logan White already wants to draft their children are unconfirmed.

Along with other Brewers teammates, Capuano appeared in an episode of the CBS daytime serial The Young and the Restless on June 20, 2007. He arrives a bit late to participate in the Dodger ownership soap opera, but perhaps the Hollywood proximity was an additional draw for him.

Contract Status

Per the True Blue LA Salary page, Capuano receives $3 million in 2012, with an $6 million salary greeting him in 2013. There are also several incentives clauses. For 2014 there is a mutual option with a buyout of $1 million. Given that Capuano has had Tommy John surgery in 2002 and 2008, 2014 might be the year to miss.

Previous Dodgers Player Profiles:

None.

Stats

Year Age IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP x-FIP tERA ERA+
2009 30 - - - - - - - -
2010 31 66.0 2.86 7.36 3.95 4.22 3.90 4.02 102
2011 32 186.0 2.56 8.13 4.55 4.04 3.67
3.84 82
2012 Projections - Age 33 Season



Source IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP
Bill James 190.0 2.56 7.53 4.12 4.03
PECOTA 159.2
2.8 7.0
4.40
-
ZiPS 137.1 2.43 7.41 4.26 3.99
(Photo by Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE)

2012 Outlook

The Dodgers hope that Capuano can stay healthy and hold down a spot in the back of the rotation, not just for 2012, but the following season as well. The Bill James projection system thinks he can, at least this coming season, while the other expect to see some time lost. I think the 33-year old can manage to stay healthy for at least this next season, record a 4.31 ERA in 185 IP, with a 1.35 WHIP.

What is your guess for Capuano in 2012? Be sure to give us ERA, Innings Pitched, and WHIP in the comments, plus anything else you wish to guess.

Thanks to baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com for the statistics.

Eric Stephen contributed significantly to this report.

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