Carter Capps. Should they Chris Sale him?
We're talking BIG time upside.


Q.  Okay, first up, how was the umping THIS time?

A.  The umps were up to their old tricks as Carter got loose.  He came into the game, threw strike one.  Then ....


...... on pitch two, Capps blazed a thunderous sidearm 99 MPH fastball ....  wayyyyyyy wide of the hitting area.  The ump's eyes got real big.  So, next pitch, Capps launched a hand grenade onto the outside black ... 2" outside, ump never considered a strike.  Pitch four, Capps threw a simple, obvious strike... eeyyuuup, ball three.  3-and-1 count to Kelly Johnson.

Johnson later got a single on a 3-2 pitch that clocked 99 MPH.  One of two hits on the evening, leading to a run.  Thank you, blue.

But you got the distinct impression that John Jaso muscled the ump back into line.  He visibly framed pitches, looked like he was talking to the ump ... who missed only one more clear pitch, along with a couple of real close ones.  Naturally, Capps was given no strikes that weren't firmly inside the zone.  Dr. D seriously wonders whether Capps has been given one strike this year.  He sure as shootin' has had a lot of them gypped away from him.


Q.  How was the confidence and tempo?

A.  Even better than last time.

He detonated Brett Lawrie on three strikes:

  • 84 MPH slider began at Lawrie's elbow, broke onto the outside third, called 0-1.
  • 84 MPH slider at Lawrie's ear, yes really, broke onto the inside third, garbage swing 0-2.
  • Dr. D figured, 99 MPH and he'll be four feet behind it.
  • 82 MPH slider broke sharply down, buried in the dirt, what a weird pitch on 0-2, Lawrie fanned badly.

It was sick.  And here Capps is, already tripling up on sliders to ML celebrities.  They say in chess, an "evergreen" game in the midst of a losing streak, that one great game is a sign you're about to leap a plateau.  The Lawrie AB was quite a "flash" of Capps' talent.

... by the way, the Lawrie AB followed another 3-pitch strikeout.  Of Anthony Gose.  On three "here it is, hit it" fastballs.


Q.  So, a fastball-slider guy?

A.  Dr. D pitched forward onto his face, like Mr. Bean falling asleep in church, when Capps floated a 2-2 changeup at Colby Rasmus, screwing him into the ground three rotations deep.  89 MPH, dropped juuuuust below the knees as Rasmus swung, see ya wouldn't wanna be ya.

Capps threw 3 changes:  the strikeout pitch ... a high change that was belted for a long out ... and another low one that was grounded out, I think.  When he fires a high 99 MPH fastball for strike two -- as he did to Colby Rasmus -- and then, after they're terrified, gives them an 89 MPH change dropping out of the zone, he's going to be illegal.

Look.  To hit 99 MPH they've got to cheat.  Period.  They're "timing" the bats like in a hitting cage, "timing" the bat to 99 MPH.  Anything slow, with good arm action, they're done.

Like Blowers says, even put that embarrassing slider in their MINDS and now the bat doesn't start as fast.


Q.  But at least he can't go into the rotation.

A.  He threw 38 pitches tonight and he was totally effortless at the end.  The kid was just getting loose.  His command on the last hitter, Adam Lind, was positively Pineda-like.  Two fastballs on the black, then a ladder fastball right at the top of the zone, a slider for a strike, and then a change that dropped 4" below the knees.  Murderous.

Capps has a glassy sidearm delivery in Randy Johnson, Chris Sale, Walter Johnson, Pedro Martinez style.  Jered Weaver, of course.  He's got wonderful deceleration, gets his torso wayyyyy forward, glides his weight smoothly to a stop over a bent front knee, clears that long arm easily.

Daniel Bard didn't do so hot moving to the rotation, but Chris Sale did kind of all right.  It's not like a middle reliever is too precious a commodity to mess with.  As good as K-Pax, Taijuan, and Hultzen?  Try better than them.

I want to know why Carter Capps isn't starting.



But he was a volcanic mover of magma fields as a bullpenner. He went to the Cape Cod league and closed there, jumping a plateau in doing so - as you would imagine most good starters would do. James Paxton would look awesome as a closer, but that doesn't mean he should be one. His 25:1 (or whatever) K:BB in the Cape Cod league opened eyes and moved Capps up draft boards, including ours.
Carter was a starter in college, though, and a good one. A horse. 14-1, 1.75 ERA in 118 IP, with 129K/18BB. The pen is not the reason for his great control. Now that was at Mt. Olive, not exactly an SEC school, which may be why he was switched to the pen. It was a job he was guaranteed to be good at regardless of competition level.
As with Wilhelmsen, though, there's not really an overwhelming reason to keep him in the pen, other than he's being successful there and transitioning to the rotation would mean allowing him to fail a bit. If he could get umps to call strikes in the zone it's basically impossible for him to fail in the bullpen.
Pryor will never start, but Capps or Wilhelmsen could. If we trade one of the Big Three, the easiest way to make up the difference is to move one of em back to the rotation.
Don't think we will, but we could.


And didn't bother to look it up.  But that's a major pebble onto the right side of the balance scale.  Obviously it didn't bother him to go 6, 7 innings.
what I wouldn't give for the M's to at least dip their toe into the water, give Capps a 4, 5 inning stint out of the bullpen to get a looky.  
G, what do you guess his velocity would be at pitch 100?  Perhaps Alexi Ogando is a bit of a precedent here -- averaged 96.3 in the pen, 95.1 in the rotation.  You wouldn't expect Capps to sit 98-100 in the rotation but he might sit 96-97 and be the hardest-throwing starter in the game.


Lonnie, G, whoever, how long has he been throwing the 89 MPH changeup?
It looked 95% effective and 100% repeatable.  He appeared to be completely comfortable throwing it, no problem throwing strikes, perfectly decent arm action, gave ML hitters problems with it right out of the gate.  Seemed able to hit the knees with it and if so, wow.
If we'd been cross-checking, not "knowing" that his changeup needs work, we'd have thought his change DIDN'T need work.
A functional changeup is a different conversation for Capps than for anybody else.  To cope with 98-100 the batters have got to focus EXCLUSIVELY on the fastball.


Wonder if, as you surmise, that really was the main reason that he was switched to the 'pen.  Simple doubts about the overall ability (as opposed to health issues, mechanical issues, etc.)
If THAT's the reason he's in the pen, it is definitely time to revert.  You've got new info about the overall ability.

Lonnie of MC's picture

Just a touch of history first...
Capps was recruited out of HS as a catcher, redshirted his freshman year, and in his sophomore year he moved to the mound. Capps initially balked at the idea of pitching since he really liked being a catcher, but how many catchers are 6'5" and weigh in at 220 lbs? Capps left the decision up to his Mt Olive coach and the rest is history.
One thing of note is that Capps was a starter for the vast majority of his college career, and then went into the bullpen during the summer of 2011 while in the Cape Cod League. Capps final game in the CCL was in the championship series where he started and went something like 5 innings and struckout 50,000 batters.
Coming out of college, Capps was known to have a devastating fastball that could suck the air right out of a batters lungs as it went by. He also had a workable slider, but his curve and change were known to be in need of work. I guess he put the work in because his changeup is now a plus weapon.
The M's took two guys out of college who were destined for greatness working out of the bullpen; Capps and Carson Smith. Capps, most scouts thought, could fast-track his way to the majors while working from the bullpen, while Smith still had some work to do. The main reason that the scouts weren't too high on Capps as a starting is that he does not pitch like a guy who is 6'5". In his delivery he squats down while throwing the ball with a decided side-arm. across his body motion. The combination of the two makes the pitch come in like it was thrown from a guy who stood no more than 5'11".
I could see him getting moved into a rotation, but my fear is that even though he has few miles on his arm (didn't start pitching regulary until just a couple of years ago), the move may impact his arm in some sort of negative way.
I like him in the pen, and I am intrigued with him as a starter, but I fear what could happen to what may be one day an All-Star closer.


Maybe this is common knowledge, or maybe it is just absurd, but are changeups the most effective off-speed pitch?
I've watched a whole summer of Vargas and now Ramirez embarrass hitters with a change that dives into the dirt. It seems that curves and sliders often get botched, hanged and then hit for extra bases, but the changeup rarely goes wrong and seems just as effective when it goes right. Maybe the curve and slider are more difficult to throw and more unreliable because they rely heavily on a hard spin for the ball.
Is this right baseball thinking?

Lonnie of MC's picture

...didn't happen at Mt Olive. He DID work 5 games from the pen during his final year there, but he also started 15 games that year and threw 5 complete games.
Oh, I almost forgot. Here's some video that I shot of Capps last spring in Peoria:
I multiplexed him with some vid of Forest Snow, but after about 22 seconds you enter Cappsville.


That kind of makes sense, that the low CG and sidearm release would scare people off.  
Unfamiliar = Bad in that business.  Capps is an unorthodox RH pitcher. Unorthodox = Do Not Want My Job On The Line Here.  See Lincecum, Tim.
Capps' release point is low, as was Randy Johnson's and as is Jered Weaver's, but on the other hand some of Capps' fastballs are released from more than 4' off center towards 3B.  Four feet.  You want to talk angles?

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