BY ROB SHAW
Seven years ago Chris Capuano was one of the best starters in baseball, as he went 18-11 for the Milwaukee Brewers. The good times did not last long as Capuano was derailed by arm injuries that forced him to miss 2008-2009.
In his first full season back, Capuano pitched well for the Mets with 11 wins and a 4.55 ERA. However, a closer look at the statistics reveals that there could endure some trouble ahead. Capuano surrendered 1.31 HR/9, which would have been an issue had he stayed in New York with the fences getting drawn closer. His 5.42 ERA on the road is also an issue with Capuano moving away from Citi Field.
Fantasy managers can take some relief in the fact that Capuano’s move to Los Angeles means he’ll continue to pitch in a pitcher’s park. Furthermore, the Dodgers lineup should have more punch than the Mets lineup, which puts 12 wins within reach.
In 2008, Ryan Ludwick was one of the best players in baseball. He blasted 37 home runs, drove in 113 RBI, and hit .299 for the Cardinals. Ludwick failed to repeat the success and within two years he was dealt to the Padres.
In San Diego, Ludwick has regressed a great deal. His power and average took a severe decline and last season he was dealt to the Pirates. In particular, Ludwick has struggled against the fastball, and he is no longer hitting many line drives.
A move away from PETCO Park will give Ludwick every chance of regaining his confidence. At 33 years old, Ludwick is far from his prime, but 20-plus home runs with solid run production is a legitimate best-case scenario.
One of the most consistent hitters over the last decade has been Juan Pierre, most recently the leadoff man for the White Sox. In fact, Pierre ranks second on Major League Baseball for plate appearances since 2010. However, Pierre’s role will change dramatically now that he returns to the National League with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Now a 34-year-old speedster, Juan Pierre did score 80 runs with 27 steals and a .279 average last season. However, his success rate for stolen bases took a nose-dive from 79% to 61%. In an era in which every statistic is studied by the front office, it is clear that Pierre’s struggles to secure stolen bases actually may have cost his team runs last season.
The Phillies are not looking for Pierre to play an everyday role. The hope is that Dominic Brown regains his confidence and becomes a rising star next to Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. Pierre will likely man a fourth outfielder role and offer some serious speed off the bench. His fantasy value takes a major hit this season.
For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com
By Tommy Rancel //
Two-time Tommy John surgery survivor and former 18-game winner Chris Capuano will try another comeback, after signing a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the New York Mets.
Capuano broke off talks with his former team, the Milwaukee Brewers, due to uncertainty over his future role. The Brewers did not want to commit a rotation spot, while Capuano is not yet ready to make a permanent move to the bullpen. The Mets have a few openings at the back end of their rotation and little financial flexibility with a top-heavy payroll. On paper, the pairing seems like a good marriage of ability and need.
Because of injury, Capuano did not pitch in the major leagues in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, the lefty returned to make 24 appearances (9 starts) for the Brewers. In most cases, results immediately following major arm surgery should be taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand, in 66 innings of work Capuano appeared to be very much the same pitcher he was pre-operation.
Looking at his 2010 peripheral stats most notably: strikeouts, walks, and home runs per nine innings (K/9, BB/9, HR/9), he was right in line with his career numbers.
Also returning to career form was Capuano’s pitch selection and velocity. He remains a three-pitch starter, featuring a fastball, slider, and change-up. He was not a hard-thrower before the injuries, and his fastball remained in the upper-80s upon his return.
The Mets are taking a small risk on Capuano, who will earn a base salary of $1.5 million, but when healthy he is a league-average pitcher who could benefit from pitching his home games in the Mets’ spacious stadium. No stranger to the big fly (career 1.27 HR/9), a healthy Capuano could see his home run rate drop significantly in New York. After pitching most of his career in a noted launching pad (Miller Park), he moves to Citi Field, which ranked 27th in home runs per game in 2010 according to ESPN’s park factors.
Obviously, the concerns over another arm injury are real. And even if he remains healthy, there are questions about stamina (Capuano threw 100 or more pitches just once in 2010) over the course of an entire season. Meanwhile, there is the chance Capuano gives the Mets 150-plus innings of league average work or better thanks to the new digs.
It is a risk the Mets are willing to take and one you should consider at the back end of your NL-only draft. In standard mixed leagues, you can probably pass.