Matt Capps and his 2009 struggles

Matt Capps has decided that the best way to bounce back in 2010 is to throw more fastballs.

I’ve tried a lot of different pitches this year, the slider, the change … I’ve had a sinker, too, that runs in on right-handers. But when I’m just myself out there, I’m letting her rip. Just throw gas. Keep everything consistent about what I’m doing.

Using the awesomeness of FanGraphs, let’s take a look at Capps’ pitch selection this season.

Fastball Slider Change
2005 74.5% (90.7) 21.3% (79.6) 4.3% (82.0)
2006 69.8% (92.7) 26.9% (83.8) 3.3% (83.8)
2007 78.2% (92.9) 17.6% (84.3) 4.1% (84.4)
2008 78.6% (91.5) 14.8% (82.9) 6.6% (84.6)
2009 68.6% (93.6) 25.1% (84.7) 6.3% (87.1)

This table shows the frequency of each pitch type, while also including the average velocity in parentheses. Capps’ fastball usage is way down this season, as he has incorporated his slider to a greater degree. It is hard to say if the decreased fastball repetition is causing his control issues this year, but it is a possibility.

Moving on, let’s take a look at his peripheral numbers.

K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 HR/FB WHIP BABIP FIP
2005 6.75 0.00 3.00 0.00 0.0% 1.25 0.377 2.27
2006 6.25 1.34 4.67 1.34 12.2% 1.15 0.287 4.25
2007 7.29 1.82 4.00 0.57 4.4% 1.01 0.271 3.16
2008 6.54 0.84 7.80 0.84 6.8% 0.97 0.272 3.28
2009 7.59 2.87 2.65 1.69 13.9% 1.67 0.370 4.97

Capps’ strikeout rate is up this year, as is his walk and home run rates. The increased number of home runs can be attributed to a spike in his home run per fly ball rate. This number is mostly out of the pitcher’s control, and generally sits in the 10%-12% range for most pitchers. Also, a BABIP increase of nearly 100 points tells a great deal about Capps’ struggles this season.

Capps experienced some good fortune the past couple of years, both in his BABIP allowed and his HR/FB rate. This season, that good fortune was flipped upside-down, making him appear to be a batting practice pitcher. Moving forward, expect a performance somewhere between what we saw in 2007 and the horror of 2009 (although that projection improves if he can regain his immaculate control). That will not make him a shutdown closer, but more like a useful reliever. The Pirates should adjust their bullpen strategy accordingly.

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