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Yankees 2014 Roster Report Card: Chris Capuano

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If this is Capuano's lone season in pinstripes, we'll always remember his tongue. Makin' it weird.

tasty
tasty
Rich Schultz

Grade: C

2014 Statistics: 97 1/3 IP, 4.35 ERA (110 ERA-), 3.91 FIP (100 FIP-), 7.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 0.0 WAR

2015 Contract Status: Free agent

Are you lefthanded?

Are you good at baseball?

If you answered yes to both, then you'll live forever in this game.

Back in the mid-2000s, Chris Capuano was a pretty fair southpaw for the Brewers as they rebuilt toward the team that eventually snapped their 26-year playoff drought. He was even an All-Star in 2006. Baseball's a cruel game for pitchers though, and after an injury-shortened 25-start season of subpar ball in '07, Capuano underwent Tommy John Surgery. He did not pitch in the big leagues from September 28, 2007 until finally making his comeback on June 3, 2010. He was still only 31 at the time, but man, that's a long time away from major league hitters.

Since his impressive comeback, Capuano has managed to hang around the big leagues for five seasons with five different teams, occasionally tossing in a good start here and there but ultimately maintaining a middling 91 ERA+ since 2010. Unsigned for most of the off-season, the Red Sox picked up the left near the start of spring training, and he was one of the last guys to make the team. Capuano got off to a good start by twirling 15 scoreless innings in 12 games out of the bullpen. Afterward though, he was a mess, posting an eye-popping 8.31 ERA and 1.031 OPS after the beginning of May. Following a five-run beatdown in Seattle mopping up for John Lackey, the Red Sox severed ties with the veteran.

Capuano was signed to a minor league deal by the Rockies, and he made four starts between their Triple-A and Double-A affiliates in July, rebuilding his stock somewhat with a solid 2.79 ERA and 1.086 WHIP. The Yankees were encouraged by what they saw, so needing an infusion of major league-caliber starting pitching with Chase Whitley badly fading due to fatigue, they purchased Capuano from Colorado on July 24th.

The soon-to-be 36-year-old immediately moved into the rotation and made 12 starts for them from July 26th through the end of the season. Capuano was there to fill a void, and he did so to about the peak of his abilities at this stage of his career. With the Yankees, he had a 4.25 ERA (108 ERA-), a 4.05 FIP (99 FIP-), a 7.5 K/9, and a 2.6 BB/9. He did have a couple nice starts near the end, including six innings of two-hit scoreless ball against the Rays that (surprise) went unrewarded by the Yankees and his season finale, a 6 2/3 inning stint without allowing an earned run in Boston. Most of his starts (save for one absolutely atrocious game when he recorded just one out) fit the same theme: throw a lot of pitches, give up a lot of hits (9.2 H/9), limit the damage to no more than four runs, then depart sometime around the end of the sixth inning. Rinse, recycle, repeat.

Capuano was simply the definition of average rotation filler. His ERA & FIP numbers hovered around league average. The Yankees went 6-6 in his starts. He surrendered a .261/.314/.412 triple slash while the league hit a fairly similar .253/.316/.390 on the year. For a team like the Yankees trying desperately to stay in the pennant race, Capuano certainly wasn't the worst guy to be throwing every fifth day. However, by the time the Yankees were just about eliminated, it would have been nice to see his now-fruitless mediocrity replaced in the rotation by the young righthander Bryan Mitchell, who might actually have a future with this team. Alas, that did not happen, and Capuano remained a starter.

It's possible that since he did a decent job filling in this year that the Yankees could extend him a spring training invitation or perhaps even an inexpensive deal if they think he could be a useful spare part next year. If he moves on though, it's not a big deal. Even if the Yankees don't sign a single starter (unlikely), there are more intriguing backup options for the rotation in the minors like Mitchell, Manny Banuelos, and others.

Nonetheless, I'll miss the lovely pictures in the editor of Capuano and his weird pitching tic, like the one used in this article.

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