Capuano shining bright for Dodgers

It’s some consolation that while he’s making me look silly, Chris Capuano is doing the same to opposing hitters.

In February, I called Capuano a shaky bet, and while there’s still a long way to go this season, he’s been plenty steady so far, lowering his ERA to 2.21 with seven innings of shutout ball today as the Dodgers took a 5-0 lead into the ninth inning at Chicago.

Capuano has struck out 36 in 36 2/3 innings while allowing only 42 baserunners and three home runs, numbers that even surpass what Hiroki Kuroda did in his first six starts a year ago. Against the Cubs, Capuano struck out seven in seven innings while giving up three singles and two walks, and pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning that was keyed by a Dodger error.

My concern over Capuano was that he hadn’t pitched a full-season of above-average baseball since 2006, despite the healthy strikeout rates he has posted in his career, including the period after his surgery. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t be good, but I felt this was a case where the negatives were likely to outweigh his positives.

That’s why I’m still hedging my bets about what he’ll do over the course of this season (and next), but it’d be wrong for me not to celebrate how strong he has been for the Dodgers so far. Capuano has improved with every game and is now working on a streak of 18 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. Let’s face it: You can complain about things that haven’t gone the Dodgers’ way, but Ted Lilly and Capuano combining to go 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA? That’s gold, Jerry.

Capuano also hit a big two-run double in the second inning, joining Bobby Abreu and Dee Gordon in backboning the Dodger offense today. Matts Treanor and Kemp added sacrifices of the fly kind.

Capuano left after throwing 100 pitches, 70 for strikes. Adding to the joy, Ronald Belisario made his first official appearance as a Dodger in more than a year, notching a perfect eighth inning on 11 pitches with one strikeout.

Update: Jamey Wright allowed a run in the ninth on a bloop single, defensive indifference and another single, but finished off the 5-1 victory.

  • Jibin Park

    Agreed, Jon.  Very solid start for Capuano.  Easy to point to Capuano’s signing as one of Ned’s “veteran” signings, but I suppose you just can’t underestimate the pitching talent of econ majors.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Some nasty curves by Wright in the ninth. 

    • Anonymous

      Jamey Wright has appeared in ten games this year.  In six of those games, he has allowed no runs (6.1 IP, 0 H, 2 BB).  In the other four games, he has allowed 5 runs, all earned (4.2 IP, 5 H, 6 BB).  As a result, he has a pretty good WHIP (1.18) but only a so-so ERA (4.09).  So I agree with yesterday’s assessment of him thus far as “useful” – not in the reliable category with Lindblom, Jansen, and perhaps Guerrier and Guerra, but not in the disaster category with Coffee, MacDougal, or Elbert.  The jury’s still out.  The good news from today’s game was that he didn’t walk anyone.

  • Anonymous

    Really, Capuano deserves the highest praise so far.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Totally agree, Jon. Cappy’s been a great signing so far. My biggest worry with him was his health and all the time off. But he’s been terrific.  (And with the bat, too!)

    Thought Belisario looked great today, too (speaking of guys with long layoffs, as it were). Cautiously optimistic there. 

    Anyway, we win!

    • Anonymous

      Yes, while it’s too soon to tell how Belisario will work out, he’s off to a good start, and that’s cause for early optimism.  Same thing for Abreu.  Of course, one game does not tell the whole story, but a good start is better than a bad start.

      • Anonymous

        Abreu arrives just when Gwynn seemed to be getting hits.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    After Sunday’s game, Dodgers have four consecutive series against their four NL West rivals. 

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      And 18 games at home this month (vs the 10 road games, 6 of which will be done with after tomorrow!)

      • Anonymous

        Time for a trek from Pismo

  • Anonymous

    Jon I had/have the same concerns about his arm, but I’m happy to eat a little crow after a start like this.  Nice to see that inning from Beli as well.

  • Anonymous

    Is there a rule that players must wear their cap in the dugout? There should be, I just can’t stand to see young guys in their 20s and 30s bald. Example, Mark Ellis. I expect bald guys to be too darn old to play baseball. Darn that extra chromosome…

    • Anonymous

      I half agree.  Keep the scalps covered–hair or hat–in the dugout.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    A lot of Mets fans  on Twitter are sighing about Capuano’s season start.

  • Anonymous

    Capuano should throw a no-hitter. That would make the entire Mets fanbase plotz.

    • Anonymous

      Right now, they should be delighted the team’s at .500.

    • Anonymous

      I now have a new scrabble word.

  • Anonymous

    Just woke up, disapointed my Liverpool lost the FA cup final, but more than made up for by a solid Dodgers win (good to see Lilly all worked up at his old stomping ground) :)

  • Anonymous

    I’m also liking the fact that lately others (ie not Kemp and Eithier) on the team are contributing RBI’s

    • Anonymous

      We’ve had some very pleasant surprises so far on the team, even aside from the pitchers.  Aside from those two, I think it’s safe to say that nobody expected A.J. or J.J. (Jerry Jr.) to be doing anywhere near as well as they are.  Of course, there has been anywhere from “at expectations” to disappointment elsewhere, but at least some players have been pleasant surprises.

      • Anonymous

        Don’t want to win April and early May games by 10 runs anyway.  Still time for disappointments to contribute.

  • Anonymous

    At the start of this season, we probably could have guessed that the rotation would have W-L of 4-0, 3-0, 2-0, 2-2, and 1-2, or that they would have ERA of 1.38, 2.21, 2.63, 3.19, and 5.72.  What nobody would have guessed is that Kershaw would be third on the team in each category.

    • Jibin Park

      But we would have guessed Harang as being 5th.

  • KT

    Good win today (Nice call John_from_Aus)…Now it’s time to take the rubber game tomorrow

  • Anonymous

    A quick comment regarding yesterday’s discussion about autographs.  Clearly, different folks have different attitudes about them.  Some don’t collect them at all, of course.  Among the rest of us, some of us may collect only our favorite player(s), but many of us collect as many autographs as we can, even from the players (and/or coaches/executives) who have disappointed us.  Different (pen)strokes…

  • Anonymous

    Jon Weisman…. concerning your posting “The State of the Dodgers Bullpen” ….

    The only thing I agreed with you on, concerning your paragraphs on Javy Guerra, was that he has talent.  The rest of what you wrote….I have to take exception to.  I could type for days but won’t.

    The closer is a special variant of a relief pitcher… (if your team is lucky enough to have a legit one)
    Where have you been, my man?  :-) … Why did they play “Hells’ Bells” when Trevor Hoffman, or “Welcome to the Jungle” when Eric Gagne entered the game?
    Why didn’t the Padres just have Hoffman pitch the 6th? and turn and ask the rest of the staff, “Ok fellas, who wants to take the 9th?”…
    A closer should have “stuff” that is so filthy rotten nasty, that “on it’s face” is so hard to hit for even the best of hitters.  The opposing hitters should feel like the “prey” and the closer, the “predator.” As a fan, you can sense it… as a hitter, you’re just hoping to catch the closer on a bad night…
    Lee Smith, Rod Beck, Rob Nen, Brian Wilson, Eric Gagne, Dennis Eckersley, Trevor Hoffman….
    Aggressive guys with stuff that is either so hard, moves so, so much… or, God forbid…Both!  :-)
    And… above all…. the great closers have one thing in common… “control”

    “”My biggest concern with Javy last night — no [swagger],” Mattingly said”
    (Donny doesn’t give stats…. he just breaks it down real simple as a baseball guy)
    IMHO.

  • Anonymous

    In ST Capuano was considered 5th on the depth chart.  Right now he is probably our #2 starter.  But yes its still early in the season.  After all today is the 150 anniversary of the battle of Puebla.  

  • Anonymous

     That kid in Atlanta…… that dude’s a closer.

  • Anonymous

    Who’s a closer? Anyone I see drinking coffee.

    • Anonymous

       I love that comment btimm… :)

  • Anonymous

     And, yes… outs can be harder to get in the 9th when there’s more pressure….

    On the road when the crowd is going nuts…

    When the hitters are working the count differently than they did in the first few innings…

    When the other team will replace the first guy that gets on base with their fastest bench player in order to put more pressure on both you and the defense….
    When the other team will replace that slap-hitting 2B in the #8 spot for a legit power threat….

    An out in the 9th can be a very different animal than in other parts of the game.
    IMHO

  • Anonymous

    One more comment about today’s game, which is the only one in the series I’m not attending.  While I certainly would have enjoyed seeing the Dodgers win, it was basically a dull game, with an early lead that was never in jeopardy, and not much excitement after the three-run second inning.  Yesterday’s game was more exciting because the Dodgers kept battling back, and came close to tying it or taking the lead.  Of course, if I’m at a game, I really really REALLY want the Dodgers to win, and I really really REALLY hate seeing them lose, like I did yesterday.  But I also would like to see an exciting game.  And if it’s not going to be an exciting game, at least have SOMETHING happening – like that 15-0 blowout in Minneapolis last year, when we kept scoring inning after inning.
    .
    However, if I had the choice between going to a game and watching them lose an exciting game, vs going to a game and watching them win a dull game, I’d easily take the latter.

  • Anonymous

     Furthermore….

    If you don’t find that the opposing clubs seem to be “pulling out all the stops” in the 7th or the 8th in order to avoid your closer…… then you don’t have much of a closer.  IMHO.

  • Anonymous

    The 2003 Dodgers had 1457 2/3 IP. Eric Gagne pitched 82 1/3 of those innings. So I guess all those other innings were pointless?

  • Anonymous

    BTW – It should go without saying, but I submit all of the above commentary as a huge Jon Weisman and Dodger Thoughts fan.  :-) 

    • Anonymous

      Saito pitched for the Dodgers for three seasons, with some astonishing numbers (WHIP 0.912, K/9 11.6, K/BB 4.71).  We’ve had some other relievers who had some pretty astonishing numbers too, especially if you look at their three best consecutive seasons with the Dodgers: Broxton (WHIP 1.093, K/9 11.9, K/BB 3.72), Gagne (WHIP 0.822, K/9 13.3, K/BB 6.29 – in 2003 his WHIP was less than 0.7!), and Jensen (WHIP 1.017, K/9 15.1, K/BB 3.38).  The old-time guys didn’t have numbers like that, but had some other astonishing numbers; for example, Ron Perranoski’s K/9 and WHIP weren’t even close to that, but in 1963 he was 16-3 as a reliever!

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    1) “A closer should have “stuff” that is so filthy rotten nasty, that “on it’s face” is so hard to hit for even the best of hitters.  ”

    2) “..the closest thing the Dodgers have had, “in terms of style” to Mariano Rivera was Takashi Saito.  … He didn’t have the fastest stuff….nor the most movement… He was just plain smart and goooood.  ”

    • Anonymous

       Yes… sounds hypocritical when you put those two statements together… :-)

      Just a clarification…..Not trying to violate rule #4….

      My original intention in coming back later to even mention Takashi Saito was to say that he was the exception to the traditional notion of what a closer should be.  When I went to type it, Mariano Rivera came to mind.  But, even Rivera has adjusted through the years…but, started out with “electric” stuff.
      And, Guerra’s stuff isn’t as good as Saito’s… or even close. IMHO. Anyways, the thing about Saito to me was that he had outstanding control / command of his pitches. He had a way of keeping guys off balance with an outstanding changeup…He could “paint the corners”, and he could go high 90′s in order to punch somebody out.  Guerra will have to develop this type of control (not merely measured in walks) as he doesn’t hit 98 or 99, lacks a truly outstanding change up, and to me at least, doesn’t have as much movement on his fastball.  He does have a very nice cutter though. If he can develop a great change up and be able to really “spot” that cutter, he’ll be a fixture with this club for a long time.  And, quite frankly…. I’m rooting for him to do so.  Still, I’d refer to my first statement when acquiring / picking a closer.  (and would consider my roster incomplete unless I had at least one guy that fit that description) 

      • Anonymous

        Guerra’s stuff and raw talent may not be up there with the best, but I’ll tell you what he’s got: attitude.  When he goes out to the mound, he usually looks like nothing’s going to get to him.  He doesn’t get flustered, he looks serious but never concerned.  Like it’s just another day at the office, as though the 40,000 people watching him weren’t even there. I don’t know whether a few years from now we’ll look at him as a one-season wonder who faded (a la Belisario or Troncoso) or as someone who’s lights out for a bunch of years. But I like watching him work.

        • Anonymous

           I think you’re exactly right nsxtasy….
          I like his demeanor on the bump as well….
          He does look pretty calm and under control out there….
          I hope he ends up fitting your latter description, and is really successful.

  • Anonymous

     Finally, Saito was so good at what he did well that he actually fit my first description by proxy.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      In other words, good closers are good closers because they are good closers.

      Look, I’m not believing I can talk you out of a viewpoint that you obviously feel strongly about – I hate this subject to begin with and try to address it as little as possible.  All I can say is that I believe that the distinctions you are drawing between the ninth inning and other innings are false. 

      “On the road when the crowd is going nuts…”

      Crowds that are going to be loud in the ninth are usually loud before then.

      “When the hitters are working the count differently than they did in the first few innings…”

      There’s no evidence that hitters work the count differently in the ninth inning than in all other innings. “First few innings” has no place in your argument, which is dependent on the ninth being different from the eighth.

      “When the other team will replace the first guy that gets on base with their fastest bench player in order to put more pressure on both you and the defense….”

      Teams use pinch-runners before the ninth all the time.

      “When the other team will replace that slap-hitting 2B in the #8 spot for a legit power threat….”

      Teams use pinch-hitters before the ninth all the time.

      So it’s not that the ninth isn’t tough. But saying it’s a special animal, when we see games lost in the eighth inning and earlier time and again, does not make any sense. And, as I said before, you have yet to address the fact that all this ninth-inning pressure applies only to pitchers, in your mind.  There’s no talk about a ninth-inning mentality for hitters. Does that make sense? Why haven’t people spend hours and hours figuring out which hitters can do the job in the ninth inning as opposed to all other innings, if that inning were so unique? Why hasn’t any team developed a hitter that they can bring in EVERY SINGLE TIME there’s a close game in the ninth, the way it’s done with closers?

      The most obvious explanation is that there’s no save stat for hitters to cloud everyone’s judgment.

      • Vail Beach

        Jon, just a brief note with kudos for the original bullpen update post.  It’s the kind of sports journalism you’ve always done better than anyone else.  

  • Anonymous

    On a seperate note:  In terms of pitchers’ control not being merely reflected in walks statistics…

    If I’m a pitcher trying to get you out as a hitter….
    If MY pitches aren’t fooling you enough to get you to take them for strikes…
    If MY pitches aren’t so hard to hit that you swing and miss them…
    If MY pitches aren’t close, and are taken for balls….
    Then, unless I want to walk you….. I have to give you YOUR pitch.
    YOUR pitch is that one you just hit on a rope for a base hit.
    In other words, my lack of control set you up to get a sweet pitch to hit.

    In terms of measuring “control” …
    There was no walk, so the STAT sheet = invisible.
    However, to both teams on the field, the “lack of control” is very obvious.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      That’s true from the first batter of the game. Has nothing unique to do with relief pitching. 

      • Anonymous

         You’re right Jon. 

        Sorry for the million postings today on this topic.
        Looking back…. it’s easy to see I over-did it when it came to giving my thoughts.
        I always love your postings, and have genuine respect for your opinions….and the thoughtfulness behind them.
        Have a great night with your family.

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

          Don’t be silly – nothing to apologize for.  Hope you had a great night with your family too!

  • Anonymous

    Matt Garza scratched due to flu.  Travis Wood being recalled from AAA to start against the Dodgers for the series finale tomorrow.

  • Anonymous

    The Cubs have DFA’d Blake DeWitt to make room for Travis Wood. I believe he was DFA’d in the spring too. 
    The guy is going to get a complex.

    • Anonymous

      He’s never lived up to a promising start but, even at this point, he’s probably better than Adam Kennedy.

      • Anonymous

        Works for me.

  • Anonymous

    Prime Ticket and KCAL made a trade so today’s game is on Prime Ticket. Yaaayyy…

    • Anonymous

      If it gets played.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/LG2L4CIOLLGTIGR44UHXFKMRPM GEORGE

    Another blown save.  Championships are won today, not last year.