The Dodgers added a starter coming off a deceptively good 2011 season, signing left-hander Chris Capuano to a two-year, $10 million deal. While Capuano had a 4.55 ERA in 186 innings pitched with the Mets, his peripheral stats (8.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 4.04 Fielding Independent ERA) suggest L.A. just got an average to above-average arm for their rotation at a Black Friday price.
After two Tommy John procedures that wiped out his 2008 and 2009 seasons, the 33-year-old needs the Santa Ana winds at his back to reach 90 on a radar gun. But he's adept at getting ahead in the count with his modest fastball and inducing whiffs with a fade-away changeup. Capuano's "heater" averaged 87.6 mph in 2011, which ranked in the eighth percentile among big league starters. He wasn't bashful with the pitch, however, throwing many more fastballs in the strike zone (56.5 percent) than the average starter (51.8 percent). He got a strike a little over two-thirds of the time that he threw a fastball, which ranked in the 76th percentile among starters.
After getting the advantage in the count, Capuano went to his changeup (thrown about 10 mph slower than his fastball) often. He threw the offering 28 percent of the time overall, and 36 percent of the time in pitcher's counts. Capuano got a boatload of chases with the changeup at and below the knees:
Hitters chased Capuano's changeup 44 percent of the time, compared to the 36 percent average. And they rarely connected, either. Check out his opponent contact rate by pitch location with the changeup, and then the league average:
With a 40 percent miss rate, Capuano's change of pace easily bested the 28-29 percent average and ranked among the likes of Gio Gonzalez, Tim Lincecum and Justin Verlander.
Capuano certainly isn't a top-tier arm, but he throws strikes, misses more bats than his finesse stuff would suggest and he stayed healthy in 2011 while making 31 starts. Dodger Stadium is a pretty good landing spot for a soft-tossing lefty, decreasing offense by five percent overall for right-handed hitters by smothering triples and homers. Capuano's contract values him as a 1 Win Above Replacement level pitcher over each of the next two years, and there's a good chance he exceeds that so long as his elbow doesn't start barking. It's hardly a pennant-altering move, but there are far worse ways to spend $10 million in free agency.