Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Too Many Strikes

In baseball, as in life, things aren't always black-and-white.

For example, throwing strikes and limiting walks is generally a good thing for a pitcher. Yet, there is such a thing as throwing too many strikes, and I think we're seeing it from Matt Capps.

The Twins' closer has faced 111 batters this season and walked only two of them. His minuscule walk rate of 0.6 BB/9IP ranks as the lowest in the majors, edging Kyle Farnsworth, who's at 0.8 (what?). Capps has thrown 70 percent of his pitches for strikes.

Pounding the zone has helped the right-hander limit base runners, as evidenced by a stellar 0.93 WHIP. On the flip side, though, he's not fooling anybody. Hitters know what to expect and come to the plate ready to swing and make contact. Capps' strikeout rate has sunk to a career-low 5.5 K/9IP, and it's very tough for a closer to succeed with so few whiffs.

Capps has a good fastball, but he's throwing it 84 percent of the time and almost always over the plate. He's become too predictable, which has enabled hitters to jump on him for five home runs (one short of his total in 73 innings last year).

From my perspective, he needs to start working out of the zone a bit more often to keep hitters honest, making the opposite adjustment of Francisco Liriano. If he can cut down on the hard-hit balls and induce a few more strikeouts, Capps actually figures to be very successful in the second half.


Congratulations to the winners of yesterday's Minnesota Twins Vintage World Series DVD contest. The three names drawn were: Casey Bresnahan, Matthew Beyer and Mark Dasovic.

Thanks to everyone who submitted their name, especially those of you who included a nice personal note. I'll try and run another giveaway soon.

If you didn't win but are still interested in the DVD, you can check it out here.


Joe Mauer is hitting the Batting Cages with eyes on returning later this week. Can he help fuel the Twins' turnaround?


Jesse said...

I must say, when I hovered over the batting cages link and say jugssports.com I was expecting something else!

I agree with what you have to say here. Even to the most casual eye, it is clear that batters step up to the plate with the goal of swinging early and often against Capps and the ball is not missing the bat.

Dan Cook said...

Do you think he's throwing it over the plate so often on purpose? Or is he missing spots?

Seems to me if his command is a problem then throwing more breaking balls and trying to hit corners with his fastball isn't going to necessarily solve the problem.

Delmon Young said...

I enjoy the subtle "pitching machine" advertisement, I just bought 38 of them.

Ed Bast said...

There's no need for deep analysis on Matt Capps. He's a statistically below-average closer. The best you can expect from him is stretches of averageness. His fastball is arrow-straight and not overpowering.

These are things I learned after 5 minutes of research and watching him pitch his first inning as a Twins after the horrendous Ramos trade, and these are things he has confirmed in his Twins career. That a casual fan like myself could learn this in 5 minutes while the front office not only makes the ill-advised trade but then compounds it by allocating $7.5 mil bullpen dollars to him this year is proof positive that Bill Smith does not know what he is doing.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's that he's throwing too many strikes (70% is a pretty good percentage of strikes). It's the 84% fastballs that is the problem. He needs a second pitch he can rely on. Normally closers are fastball, slider guys and he has an ok slider on a good day that he needs to throw. Doesn't have to be a strike, but has to throw it atleast 25% of the time just to get hitters thinking about something other than the fastball. And keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate wouldn't hurt either. It isn't the number of strikes that's the problem, its the location and pitch type of them that is.

glida.org said...

Thanks for another entertaining post, Nick. I enjoy your writing even though I may not agree with everything you say.
Hey, at least Matt is leading the way in WHIP (0.93) and K/BB (8.5), two golden categories in fantasy baseball. Of course, the obvious question is who's better to close at this point (considering Joe is on the DL and hasn't pitched that well)?

Anonymous said...

throwing too many strikes is kevin slowey's problem. he's a strike thrower but not singe the 5 spot.

hayden fry

Anonymous said...

Actually batters are hitting 250 off his fastball. They are hitting 280+ off his slider and change up. His slider has been bad and he has hung it on several occasions. This is the cause of his high HR total which is the only reason he has pitched medicore this year besides the fact he has pitched hurt due to over use as he has had to try and pitch multiple innings to complete save chances as the bullpen has obviously been bad. His xFIP is 3.80 he has 2 walks and less hits than innings pitched. He is throwing his fastball because it's his best pitch. He is a valuable relief pitcher but more of an 8th inning guy.