What is the market value for Matt Capps?

In the wake of the Matt Capps release, I thought I would take a stab at what his market value should be for the 2010 season. The following is Capps’ yearly Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to FanGraphs.

Year WAR
2006 0.4
2007 1.6
2008 1
2009 -0.4
Yearly Average 0.65

Capps had an average WAR of 0.65 the previous four seasons. Let’s assume that would be his production in 2010. At $4.5 million per win, Capps would be worth slightly more than $2.9 million on the free agent market.

However, Capps was not eligible for free agency. According to a recent post by Sky Andrecheck, the 2008 salary for an arbitration-eligible player was equal to 2.26 + WAR*.31. Plugging our expected WAR for Capps into that formula, we find that his financial value for 2010 should be about $2.46 million. That is right around what the Pirates reportedly were offering Capps.

There are additional variables to consider in this situation. Should the Pirates adjust their valuation based on the availability of a replacement? How much would that replacement cost, compared to the cost of Capps? Those are different posts for different days.

If we ignore context for simplicity’s sake, the Pirates were offering Capps a market appropriate contract.

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Pirates non-tender Capps

In a surprising move, the Pirates non-tendered Matt Capps last night, allowing him to become a free agent. Neal Huntington explained his reasoning, stating that he felt the money saved could be used to replace Capps. I’m not sure that’s accurate, but one quote from Huntington stuck out to me:

If you’re talking about the Matt Capps of ’07 or ’08, that would be very, very difficult to replace. He’s probably not somebody we non-tender. The second half of ’08 and into ’09 … it’s not that hard to replace a reliever with a 5.00 or 6.00 ERA. We’ll miss Matt, and we wish him well. The only reason we had interest in him is that we felt he’s due to have a bounce-back year.

Let’s compare the “old” Capps and the 2009 version, and see if we can expect him to bounce back in 2010.

2006 3.79 4.25 3.97 4.77
2007 2.28 3.16 4.31 3.24
2008 3.02 3.28 3.95 4.07
2009 5.80 4.90 4.37 5.19

In each season from 2006 to 2008, Capps’ ERA was some degree lower than each of his fielding-independent statistics. This indicates that he was not pitching quite as well as his ERA would lead us to believe. This past season, Capps saw a decline in each number. However, the ERA increase of nearly three runs was disproportionate with the other numbers, indicating some bad luck.

2006 6.25 1.34 1.34 0.287 12.20%
2007 7.29 1.82 0.57 0.271 4.40%
2008 6.54 0.84 0.84 0.272 6.80%
2009 7.62 2.82 1.66 0.370 13.50%

Last year, Capps had a career high strikeout rate. Unfortunately, his walk and home run rates were also career highs. The spike in home runs can be explained by a large increase in his home run per fly ball rate. Most pitchers see a HR/FB ratio between 10% and 12%, so I wouldn’t count on Capps’ rate returning to the level of the previous few years. That, along with a soaring BABIP, explains the substantial increase in ERA.

Therefore, Capps was not nearly as bad as he appeared this season. However, he also was not as good as he seemed in previous years. He probably should not be a major league closer, but he can still be an above average reliever. That is what makes it surprising that Huntington non-tendered him, especially considering the lack of depth in the Pirates’ bullpen.

I advocated trading Capps before the 2008 season, while his value was high. Instead, the Pirates waited until his value was at an all-time low, and then lost him for nothing. Not a good move, in my opinion.

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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.

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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Bucs Stage Improbable Comeback in Victory

Daniel McCutchen almost got the win. The Pirates were 9 outs away, clinging to a one run lead. Luis Cruz mishandled an inning ending DP grounder in the 7th, allowing the tying run to score. No decision for McCutchen (6 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs).

In the 9th, LA put their first three runners on base en route to scoring three times off of Matt Capps. At that point, whatever slight breeze that was keeping my sails half empty dissipated entirely. No hope.

But yet, there was. With Jonathan Broxton on in the 9th, the Pirates came all the way back. Andy LaRoche singled in one run. With the bases loaded, Lastings Milledge delivered what should have been a game tying single. But the ball scooted past Andre Ethier and Garrett Jones scored all the way from first with the game winning run. Woo hoo!

That made a winner of Capps and hung Broxton with the loss. Clayton Kershaw made the start for LA and was pulled after four innings as he is coming off a hiatus from pitching due to a separated shoulder.

The Good

Taking at least two of four from LA. Going for the series win tomorrow!

McCutchen pitched well.

Andrew McCutchen had three hits. LaRoche and Milledge each drove in two.

The Bad

The 7th and the 9th defensive half innings.

The Rest

LaRoche had just his fourth multi-RBI game of the second half of the year.

This was Andrew McCutchen sixth game with three or more hits.

This was the fifth time in 2009 that Capps has allowed three or more runs in a single outing. He had just four such incidents in 2007 and 2008 combined.

Pirates need to go 5-3 to avoid a 100 loss season.

No Joke: Bucs Beat LA

I’ll take a win, no matter how unorthodox. Jeff Karstens, coming off the DL and having not thrown more than 60 pitches in a game since his last start in June, started and was on a quick hook. He pitched three mostly effective innings (one run and three hits), but was pulled after 48 pitches. In his place came Donnie Veal at the best of times. The Bucs were up and the starter hadn’t gone five. Thanks to two scoreless innings from Veal and shutout efforts from three others – including a perfect 9th from Matt Capps – Veal picked up his first career W.

The Pirates scored three unearned runs off Jon Garland. Blake DeWitt’s error in the first led to a sac fly from Garrett Jones. James Loney’s miscue in the third set up a two run, two out single from Brandon Moss.

Garland went six, gave up three unearned runs and whiffes six. He allowed six hits – five singles and a double.

The Good

A win.

Good pitching. Pirate starters walked none!

The Bad

Continued offensive woes.

The Rest

Last time the Pirates won a game in which the starter didn’t pitch five innings was 7-22-09 when Paul Maholm left after 4-2/3 in an 8-7 win over Milwaukee.

There are only four players in the Majors right now under the age of 30 with more than 100 career wins. Jon Garland is one of them. The others are Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia and Carlos Zambrano.

Moss has had three different two RBI games in September – his most of any month this year.

Last time the Pirates walked zero hitters in a game was August 22nd against Cincinnati.

Rajai Davis was in Sports Illustrated this week. Got me thinking – I hadn’t looked up his numbers in a while. So, how is the Rajai Davis Phenomenon doing? Let’s just say he is clearly having a better season than Moss is. Not really even close.

10 games left. Pirates need to go 6-4 to avoid 100 losses.


Bucs Blow Late Leads Twice, Lose in 13

Matt Capps blew a save in the 9th and sent the game into extra innings. Phil Dumatrait did the same in the 13th and lost the game.

Pirates starter Zach Duke was on. He went 7-1/3 and allowed only four hits and two runs. He whiffed seven. He was in line for the win until Matt Kemp drove in Andre Ethier with two out in the 9th off of Capps.

The Pirates pushed one across in the 13th thanks to an error from Casey Blake and an RBI single from Ryan Doumit. But Phil Dumatrait, called on after gone and Rafael Furcal on first, gave up a two run homer to Ethier to end the game.

The Pirates scored three runs early as Steve Pearce homered and Duke had an RBI single in the second. Dodgers starter Randy Wolf allowed all three runs in seven innings on five hits.

Ethier’s dinger made a winner of former Pirate farmhand Ronald Belisario, who had given up the unearned tally in the 13th.

The Good

Pearce’s homer. We need to see what he can do over the final couple of weeks.

Duke’s effort was stellar.

The Bad

Blowing two leads.

Not getting any offense after the second

The Rest

That was Duke’s second 7 K performance in 2009. He has not struck out more than that since he was a rookie in 2005. Duke came into the game with an ERA over 7.00 against LA for his career.

Wolf is 7-1 in his career against Pittsburgh and had won his last four starts against the Pirates.

Ethier has 98 RBI and Kemp now has 92. The Dodgers haven’t had teammates with 100 RBI since 2001 when Gary Sheffield and Shawn Green did it.

Belisario has not allowed an earned run in his last 10 appearances, covering 9-2/3 IP. His ERA is below 2.00 on the season, his first in the majors.



Maholm Shuts Down Astros

Paul Maholm went 8 shutout innings and the Pirates offense got just enough to give him the win. Maholm evened his record at 8-8 by allowing just five singles, a double and two walks.

Pittsburgh got an RBI single from Garrett Jones in the first off of Felipe Paulino and a solo homer from Ryan Doumit in the 8th. They would need it as Lance Berkman hit a solo dinger off of Matt Capps in the 9th. Capps recovered to get his first save of the month.

Paulino fell to 2-9 but gave up six hits and just that first inning run in five innings. He struck out seven.

The Good


Ending the losing streak.

Maholm pitching well.

The Bad

Continued silence of the bats.

Capps continuing to scuffle.

The Rest

This is the fourth time this year that Maholm has not allowed an earned run in a start. The first since July 17.

Maholm is 8-4 career against Houston, the only team he has beaten more than four times.

Paulino was forced from his last appearance against the Pirates (6/7/09) with a groin injury.

Doumit came into the game hitting .370 in September.