November 5, 2009 at 8:00 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Front Office, Player Analysis, Transactions
Matt Capps has been mentioned as a possible trade target for the Braves this off-season. With the potential (and likely) departure of Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, the Braves presumably have a void at the back end of their bullpen. Capps, a Georgia native, has closing experience. In 2007 and 2008 he was Pittsburgh’s closer and posted a 2.58 ERA, a 0.995 WHIP, and a 103-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 132 and 2/3 innings while successfully converting 83% of his save opportunities. 2009 was a different story, however.
In 2009 his ERA ballooned to 5.80, his WHIP to 1.656, and he posted a 46-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 54 and 1/3 innings. Some of this has to do with his .364 BABIP, but a lot of it has to do with his walk rate jumping from 1.4 BB/9 in ’07-’08 to 2.8 BB/9 in ’09. His FIP was 3.18 in 2007 and 3.28 in 2008, but, despite the increased strikeout rate, his FIP rose to 4.90 in 2009.
There’s much evidence that his control suffered greatly in 2009. His stuff was just as good, if not better, than it had ever been. The fastball velocity and slider velocity were higher than they’d ever been in 2009, perhaps evidence that he was attempting to throw harder and sacrificed control in the process (leading to the increased walk rate). The change-up (which he only threw 6.2% of the time) was not good and the average velocity of that pitch was up to 87.1 MPH after never being above 84.6 MPH.
I’m useful for analyzing the past, but I have no idea what Capps is going to do. If the Braves believe they can improve Capps’ control/command and reverse some of these patterns, he’s probably an excellent buy-low candidate. He won’t ever be a guy who will blow away hitters, his secondary stuff isn’t good enough, but if he can ditch or improve the change-up and start throwing strikes again, there’s no reason he can’t be a reliable closer. I’d have more to add if I were a scout, but I’m not, so I probably haven’t gotten any closer to an answer.
If the Braves do pursue him, it’ll be because they think they can work with him and he’ll improve in 2010.