Stats & Info: Matt Capps

Windy City woes for Carlos Marmol

July, 15, 2011
On Thursday Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol blew his seventh save of the season, the most in the majors. Entering the game with a 2-0 lead against the Florida Marlins, Marmol allowed five earned runs while failing to get a single batter out.

He walked four batters, and eight of his first nine pitches in the inning went for balls. His first two walks came on the slider, a pitch that has spelled control issues throughout 2011. Among relievers who have utilized the slider at least 100 times this year, Marmol’s walk rate of 12.8 percent is the highest in baseball, and second-highest including starters. The Cubs closer has thrown the slider over 100 times more than any other reliever this season, so it’s certainly a concern.

Marmol blew only five saves in over 77 innings of work last year, a mark he has equaled in just his last 20 appearances this season.

Gone in a New York Minute

Fans will see Francisco Rodriguez in a different uniform for the second half of the season after the closer was traded from the New York Mets to the Milwaukee Brewers. It was huge news when New York signed Rodriguez as a free agent in December of 2008, and opinions will likely vary on his level of success with the Mets. In his years as the Mets closer Rodriguez’s 83 saves ranked as the ninth-most in the majors. That number pales in comparison to his previous three seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, when he notched a staggering 149 saves and posted an ERA of just 2.24.

According to Inside Edge, there have been several areas where Rodriguez is finding success this season. He’s allowing just 8 percent of runners to score, 4 percent below league average. He’s also using his offspeed pitches effectively: his changeup and curve have been converting for strikes 70 percent of the time (league average is 61 percent).

Stranger Than Fiction

Elias had an interesting note that came from the All-Star Game this week: Tyler Clippard was the winning pitcher, the second straight year a Washington Nationals pitcher was credited with the win (Matt Capps earned the win last season). Both Clippard and Capps won by pitching just 1/3 of an inning. Clippard got the All-Star Game win even though he faced only one batter – Adrian Beltre. He gave up a single to Beltre, but Jose Bautista was thrown out at home plate on the play to end the inning. That feat (pitcher faces exactly one batter, gives up hit, gets the win) has never happened in any other All-Star Game or in any postseason game.
Ubaldo Jimenez set a Colorado Rockies' single-season record with his 18th win of the season. Jimenez also became the first starting pitcher this season to win a game in which he allowed 4+ runs and 6+ walks. Entering Monday, starting pitchers were 0-for-21 with five no-decisions in games in which they allowed 4+ runs and 6+ walks this season. He's the third Rockies starter ever to win a game in which he allowed 4+ runs and 6+ walks, joining Pedro Astacio (1998) and Bobby M. Jones (1999).

Staying with the Rockies, since August 23, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are hitting a combined .441 (41-for-93). The rest of the team his hitting just .241.
Boston Red Sox rookie Ryan Kalish has two grand slams this season in six plate appearances with the bases loaded. Some notable players who have fewer than two career grand slams: Derek Jeter (1), Prince Fielder (1), Victor Martinez (1) and Mark Reynolds (0).

Speaking of rookies, the Washington Nationals' Danny Espinosa has 10 RBI in his first five career games. That ties an MLB record since RBI became official in 1920. In 1951, Jack Merson also had 10 RBI in his first five career games.

Matt Capps saved his 10th game on Monday with the Minnesota Twins. And with 26 saves for the Nationals earlier this season, Capps is the fourth player with at least 10 saves in each league in the same season (since saves became an official stat in 1969). The three other pitchers: Bob Wickman in 2006 with the Cleveland and Atlanta; Octavio Dotel in 2004 with Houston and Oakland; and Wickman in 2000 with Milwaukee and Cleveland.

The Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Oswalt won his fifth straight start on Monday. He's had 11 win streaks (all as a starter) of at least five games in his career. Since his rookie season in 2001, the only pitcher with more 5+ win streaks is Roy Halladay (12).

Capps trade a striking upgrade for Twins

July, 30, 2010
Matt Capps v. Jon Rauch

The Twins went from one former Nationals reliever to another for their closer role, acquiring Matt Capps from the Nationals on Thursday. Both pitchers have more than 20 saves, but Capps’ stats show he gets more strikeouts, more swings and misses and more batters to go out of the strike zone. Also, almost half of the balls put in play against Capps are grounders, a much better rate than Rauch.

Capps’ First Pitch Importance

Like most pitchers, Matt Capps sets the tone of the at-bat with his first pitch. Unlike most pitchers, he’s usually better off if it’s a ball. Hitters are actually performing worse against Capps this season when he starts them off by missing the strike zone.

The Closer: Love Me Non-Tender

April, 25, 2010
Any team that wanted Matt Capps or Kelly Johnson last winter could have had them cheaply, after each was non-tendered this offseason.

Both have found early success in new scenery and that continued Sunday. Johnson hit his seventh home run, one fewer than he had in 303 at-bats in 2009, as the Arizona Diamondbacks topped the Philadelphia Phillies. Johnson is taking what's given to him, just as he did this offseason, to produce power.

Of Johnson's seven home runs, four came on pitches that our Inside Edge video review deemed to be on the outside part of the plate. He didn't have a home run on an outside pitch in all of 2009.

Capps set a Washington Nationals team record with his eighth April save, lowering his ERA to 0.79. The key for Capps? Opponents are hitless in 16 at-bats against him with runners in scoring position (he got three of those outs Sunday). They hit .350 against him in such spots last season. That provides an easy explanation for a drop in ERA of nearly five runs.

What else was noteworthy Sunday?
* It was a rough day for Pirates starter Charlie Morton and Yankees starter Javier Vazquez. Morton actually reduced his ERA to 16.20 after allowing five runs in three innings against the Astros. If Morton doesn't pitch again, his April ERA will rank second-worst among those who made four starts. Vazquez's ERA jumped to 9.00, matching the worst-ever April ERA by a Yankee who pitched at least 20 innings.

* Cla Meredith saved the game for the Orioles Sunday in his 272nd career appearance. He previously had the most relief appearances by an active pitcher who didn't have a save. Pirates reliever Jack Taschner, with 211, is now on the clock.

Hitters of the Day
Paul Konerko and Ryan Theriot

Konerko was clutch and Theriot was consistent. Konerko's sharp eye has been a key this year. He took six swings on Sunday, missing none, and making his last count for a game-winning home run.

Theriot got five hits, with the last four all coming early in counts. In the at-bats that netted his last four hits, Theriot saw just nine pitches. Since 2009, Theriot is hitting .362 within the first two pitches of an at-bat, 30 points better than the major league average.

Why David Price won:
- Retired 14 of 15 hitters when gaining a two-strike count, getting hitters to swing at half of the pitches he threw out of the strike zone in those spots.

Why Scott Olsen won:
- His slider worked. Seven of his eight strikeouts came with the slider, with the hitter chasing a pitch out of the strike zone on five of those seven. This was a sharp contrast from his first two starts, in which he got three strikeouts with the slider.

Why John Danks won:
- Efficiency: Threw three or fewer pitches to 60 percent (18 of 30) of the batters he faced. The major league average is about 47 percent.

Why Randy Wells won:
- Besides his team scoring a lot of runs, Wells may have been a little lucky. Brewers hitters were 0-for-7 in situations in which they had a favorable count.

Why Gio Gonzalez and Brad Penny won
- They shared the common thread of shutting down the leadoff man. Gonzalez didn't let a leadoff man reach in his seven innings. Penny only let the leadoff hitter reach once (7.2 IP).

1st pitch: Red Sox, the Rookie and RISP

April, 20, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Who is the youngest position player to win the NL Rookie of the Year?

Quick Hits: Over their last five games, the Red Sox are 0-for-30 with runners in scoring position, which has certainly contributed to the fact that they haven’t held a lead in their last 48 innings. Over that same stretch, the Nationals are hitting .408 with RISP, and have won four of their last five. Here are some quick hits on RISP:

* Jason Heyward is 8-for-11 (.727) with runners in scoring position, and just 5-for-32 (.156) otherwise. He leads the majors in batting average and OPS with RISP.

* Tim Lincecum is actually 2-for-2 with RISP and has already matched last season’s RBI total (3).

* Scott Podsednik’s 10 hits with RISP lead the majors, but all 10 are singles, so he only has six RBI in those situations.

* Among those still hitless with RISP? Kevin Kouzmanoff (0-15), Adam Dunn (0-12), Carlos Lee (0-10).

* Gary Matthews Jr. has 15 plate appearances with RISP. He does have one hit, but is still without an RBI in those situations.

* Jose Bautista is just 2-10 with RISP, but has walked eight times, which gives him a .526 on-base percentage.

* Matt Capps has held opponents hitless (0-11) with RISP, but has walked five.

* The Cardinals have held opponents to an MLB-best .172 BA with RISP, while the Cubs are in the basement at .340.

* As a group, the Red Sox outfield is 3-for-31 with RISP.

* Over their first eight games, the Astros hit .157 with runners in scoring position. Since then, they are hitting .444 with RISP, and have won three of four.

* The Rays are hitting an MLB-best .324 with RISP, but just .221 with the bases empty.

* With two outs and runners in scoring position, the Orioles are 5-53 (.094).

Today’s Leaderboard: The Rays’ .324 batting average with RISP is far and away the best in the majors. The Yankees are tied for fifth at .286. But the rest of the AL East has not fared so well, as the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Orioles are all hitting under .200 and rank in the bottom five.

Key Matchups: When you look at the active players who have had the most success against Tim Wakefield, one common trait sticks out: Free swingers. Among active players with at least 15 plate appearances against the knuckleballer, the top three in OPS are Aaron Rowand, Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Lopez. Guerrero faces Wakefield Tuesday looking to improve on a lifetime .429 average with five home runs. There was a point five years ago when Wakefield wouldn’t even bother. In 2005, he intentionally walked Guerrero four times in seven plate appearances. In total, Wakefield has intentionally walked Guerrero five times, three more than any other batter he has faced.

For Jason Bay, one of the perks to returning the National League is the chance to face Carlos Zambrano with regularity. As a rookie in 2003, Bay had his breakout game against the Cubs righty with two home runs to go with eight RBI. Bay hasn’t let up since. He has five career home runs against Zambrano, tied for his most against any pitcher. No hitter has more RBI against Zambrano than Bay’s 16.

Trivia Answer: Willie Mays turned 20 during his rookie campaign, and is the youngest position player to win the award in the NL. Jason Heyward turns 21 in August.

Tuesday's 1st Pitch: Closing Numbers

April, 13, 2010
Today’s Trivia: April 13 is the anniversary of both Pete Rose’s first hit (1963 off of Bob Friend) and his 4,000th hit (1984 off of Jerry Koosman). Which pitcher did Rose have his most hits against?

Quick Hits: More fun with tiny sample sizes. This time, with the help of Baseball Tonight researcher Mark Simon, let’s take a look at some strangeness pertaining to closers.

* Jon Rauch has had an odd go of it, so far. He's started 13 of 19 hitters with an 0-1 count. Those hitters are batting .385 against him. The six hitters that he's started with a 1-0 count are hitless.

* For the first time in his career, Jonathan Papelbon has more walks (2) than strikeouts (1) in a season.

* Via Fangraphs, hitters have only swung at 11 percent of pitches that Mike Gonzalez has thrown out of the strike zone. Last year, they swung at nearly 31 percent.

* Also via Fangraphs: In three appearances, hitters have made contact on 94.7 percent of their swings against Rafael Soriano. Last year, they made contact on 71.3 percent (16th-best among the 341 pitchers to throw at least 50 innings)

* Jose Valverde, who has always been more of a flyball pitcher, has induced eight grounders compared to only one fly.

* Matt Capps has allowed two doubles and five walks in four appearances, yet has only been charged with one run. Opposing hitters are 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Key Matchups: Brandon Inge is 0-for-14 in his career against Brian Bannister, which matches his history with Bruce Chen for Inge’s most at-bats without a hit against a pitcher. It is also the most Bannister has faced anyone without allowing a hit. Gary Sheffield is 0-for-12 against him.

Jorge Cantu is 6-for-20 all-time against Bronson Arroyo, which normally would not be significant enough to be mentioned in this space. However, Cantu is swinging for history on Tuesday. He has at least one hit and one RBI in all seven games this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he can tie the MLB record tonight for consecutive games to start a season with both a hit and an RBI. George Kelly did it in eight straight games for the 1921 Giants. The good news for Cantu? He has four hits in his last five at-bats against Arroyo, including a pair of home runs.

Today’s Leaderboard: Two of the hitters struggling most so far this season are leading the majors in pitches per plate appearance. David Ortiz leads the way with 5.0, followed by Milton Bradley. Are they struggling with patience or because of it? According to, Ortiz has been caught looking at 37 percent of the strikes thrown his way, well above his career average of 25 percent. He has also only swung at eight percent of first pitches. His career average is 28 percent.

Trivia Answer: Rose had 64 hits off of Phil Niekro, four more than he had against Don Sutton. A big part of that were 266 plate appearances against the knuckler, 72 more than against Sutton. Fun fact: Rose did not strike out once in his final 101 plate appearances against Niekro.