The Mets continued their pursuit of injury-risk pitchers with potential strong upsides as they signed Chris Capuano and Taylor Buchholz to deals last Monday. Both are Tommy John survivors who are trying to revive their careers.
This deliberate and tactical approach the Mets are using is the equivalent of looking for those bargain deals at Filene’s basement. Amongst all of the castaway items, perhaps a diamond in the rough may be found at a low price.
Capuano is certainly the more attractive pitcher of the two, having put together an 18 win season with Milwaukee back in 2005. That year, his innings pitched were 219 which represented more than the cumulative total (121.1) of his previous two years of major league experience. The following year in 2006, he pitched another 200+ season making him a prime candidate for injury a la the Verducci effect. Capuano was 26 at the time of these inning increases which puts him outside of the Verducci effect rules for 25 years of younger, but it’s close enough. And so, sure enough, Capuano has been bogged down with injury issues ever since.
On the plus side, Capuano has shown strong components stats with a K/9 of 7.40 for his career and solid BB/9 of 3.02. However, his propensity for fly balls (40% career rate) and a 1.3 HR/9 has danger written all over those numbers.
But here’s the silver lining: Capuano has spent much of his career in Milwaukee which is a very favorable home run hitters’ park. Last season Miller Park ranked 6th overall with a 1.233 home run factor out of all Major League stadiums. Pitching at Citifield, Capuano could benefit tremendously. Citifield ranked 27th out of 30 as the most difficult park to hit home runs in with a HR park factor of 0.719.
While all of this is speculation, the first step will be to ensure that Capuano is able to get out to the mound with consistency and avoid further injury. He pitched well enough in 2010 with Milwaukee going 4-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 66 innings. Hopefully, this is a positive sign.
If it works out, Alderson and company could have found a real winner at bargain prices as the Mets continue their off season tag sale approach.