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Sunday, July 8, 2012
Chris Capuano's masterpiece

By Dan Braunstein | ESPN Stats & Information

Capuano
Chris Capuano has been nothing short of amazing for the Dodgers in the first half.


With a 3.38 ERA that ranks second in baseball, Dodgers starting pitchers have been instrumental to the team’s success this season. The biggest surprise of that group has been the performance of Chris Capuano, who leads the staff with nine wins. He’ll start Sunday with a chance to be the first Dodger since Brad Penny in 2007 with 10 wins by the All-Star break.


Capuano’s been baffling hitters with his changeup, his main out pitch. Forty-two of his 95 strikeouts have been with his changeup, a number which ranks fifth in the league. Opponents have swung and missed 103 times against Capuano’s changeup; only Cole Hamels and James Shields have induced more misses with their changeups.

A big reason for Capuano’s success has been his performance with runners on base. With men on, opponents are hitting .193 against Capuano, the fifth-lowest mark in the majors among qualified starters. Only two of the 11 homers he’s allowed have come with men on. Last season, opponents hit .302 against Capuano with men on base, an average that ranked 85th out of 93 qualified pitchers.

Capuano has been especially effective this year on extra rest; he’s 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in starts on five days rest and 4-3 with a 3.57 ERA on four days rest (all numbers exclude his first start of the season). While it seems natural that a pitcher would be better on extra rest, it’s worth noting that pitchers this season on five days rest have an ERA only less than a tenth of a run better than when on four days rest.

Another interesting part of Capuano’s season has been his success early in games. In the first four innings, Capuano has an ERA of 1.19 and has allowed only nine earned runs over his 17 starts. Afterwards, his ERA balloons to 5.17. The first two times around the order, opponents are hitting .196 against Capuano, the sixth-lowest mark in baseball. The third time through the order, opponents are hitting .297 against him, ranking him 74th out of 100 qualified starters.

In his career, Capuano has a 3.66 ERA before the All-Star Game and a 4.97 ERA afterwards; he’s given up six more home runs in the second half lifetime despite pitching over 150 fewer innings. Given that, as well as his previous arm troubles, success on extra rest, and effectiveness early in games, how Capuano holds up over the second half of the season will be a critical storyline to watch.
Thanks to Baseball-Reference and the Elias Sports Bureau, here are some other notes looking back on the past 10 days for the Dodgers.

DODGERS FINISH JUNE ON A LOW

Last Saturday’s loss to the Mets was the fifth time the Dodgers were shut out in a six-game stretch. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Dodgers tied a major-league record by becoming the ninth team to be shut out five times in a six-game stretch. They’re only the fourth team to do it since 1920, joining the 1958 Senators, the 1963 Colt .45’s, and the 1992 Cubs.


In the entire month of June, the Dodgers were shut out seven times. They hadn’t been shut out seven times in a month since July of 1968.

SANTANA BAFFLES THE DODGERS

Johan Santana got the win for the Mets in that game Saturday, improving to 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA in five career starts against the Dodgers. Elias notes that Santana is the first pitcher to win his first five starts against the Dodgers with an ERA that low since the Cardinals’ Larry Jaster shut the Dodgers out in his first five starts against them, all in 1966.

66 INNINGS WITHOUT A LEAD

The Dodgers ended their run of shutouts and seven-game losing streak with an 8-3 win over the Mets Sunday. The Dodgers trailed early but took a 4-3 lead with a James Loney RBI groundout in the sixth inning. Loney’s RBI gave the Dodgers their first lead in 66 innings. According to Elias, that tied the longest such streak in franchise history. In 1905, the Brooklyn Superbas, as they were known then, also went 66 innings without a lead.

DODGERS EXPLODE FOR TWO HOME RUNS

The Dodgers hit two home runs in Thursday’s night win in Arizona, the first time they’d hit multiple home runs in a game since May 21, also in Arizona. It snapped a streak of 41 consecutive games hitting one home run or fewer, the team’s longest single-season streak since 1992. Since 2000, only the 2011 Padres at 56 games have had a longer such streak than the Dodgers’ 41 this season.

AVOIDING THE BIG INNING…UNTIL FRIDAY

A five-run sixth inning for the Diamondbacks gave them a 5-3 win over the Dodgers Friday. It was just the second time this season the Dodgers had allowed at least five runs in an inning; the Padres scored five in the fifth in a 6-5 Dodgers win in the third game of the season. A year ago, the Dodgers allowed at least five runs in an inning 14 times.