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Remaining Rotation Options: Chris Capuano

January 31st, 2014

Capuano has spent his entire career in the National League.

Things that happened in 2006: Wikipedia recorded its one millionth article, Crash somehow beat Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion, Cory Lidle tragically died in a plane crash, and, oh, Chris Capuano made the NL All-Star team.

Drafted by the Diamondbacks in 1999, Capuano emerged as a full-time big league starter in 2004 after the Brewers acquired him in a trade for Richie Sexson. He proved to be more than just a replacement level arm when he broke out in 2005, going 18-12 with a 3.99 ERA (107 ERA+), 3.1 WAR, and 176 strikeouts in 219 innings. He would have the best season of his career the following year, when he posted a 4.03 ERA (113 ERA+) and 3.4 WAR in 221.1 innings. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse in 2007 (5.10 ERA) as he began to deal with a series of injuries, including a Tommy John surgery in 2008. He wouldn’t reach the big leagues again until 2010, before finally re-entering a rotation the following year as a member of the New York Mets.

Over the past three seasons with the Mets and Dodgers, Capuano has posted a 4.15 ERA (89 ERA+) and 4.8 WAR over 490 innings pitched. He has averaged 28 starts per season while posting his highest strikeout-to-walk ratios (3.17, 3.0, 3.38) since that faithful 2006 season.

While his ERA may seem a bit high, Capuano has actually posted FIPs of 4.04, 3.95, and 3.55 since 2011. His 4.26 ERA in 2013 is heavily inflated due to an abnormally high BABIP (.334), and with a career BABIP against of .300, that ERA total figures to improve if he can continue pitching at the same level that he did last year.

Capuano is 35 and an injury risk, but his velocity has actually jumped since returning from Tommy John surgery. His 88.4 average fastball velocity in 2013 was his highest since 2006, a sign that he is likely in good health, and could continue to be productive for a few more years.

Projection systems such as PECOTA and Oliver have also been optimistic with respect to Capuano’s 2014 outlook, with the latter projecting a 4.00 ERA (4.04 FIP) season from him, while Oliver sees a 4.06 ERA (4.09 FIP), 1.0 WAR player. Both systems also predict a strong SO/BB ratio around 3.20.

Capuano would be a solid fit in a park like Angel Stadium. Having routinely posted home-run-per-fly-ball ratios north of 10% (last year’s 9.6% was an exception), he would benefit from the friendly pitching confines in Anaheim.

There hasn’t been much of a connection between the Angels and Capuano, but a couple days ago, Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times tweeted out that the team is leaning towards a Capuano/Jason Hammel type arm rather than a Bronson Arroyo or Paul Maholm.

Capuano is reportedly seeking a two-year deal, but it’s more likely that he lands a one-year, incentive-laden contract considering both his age and injury history. On a one-year deal, he would be an ideal fit at the back of the Angels’ rotation behind Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Hector Santiago, and Garrett Richards, while also being an exemplary bridge to 22-year-old lefty Tyler Skaggs.

You can follow Justin Millar on twitter at @justinmillar1, or email him at Justinmillar1@gmail.com.

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