Matt Capps and the Bullpen

July 30, 2010 - Minneapolis, MINNESOTA, USA - epa02267905 Minnesota Twins pitcher Matt Capps celebrates defeating the Seattle Mariners 5-3 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 30 July 2010. Capps played his first game as a Minnesota Twins as the Twins win 5-3 and Capps and gets the save.

So, the Twins’ big move at the trading deadline was to shore up their bullpen. Fetch already weighed in with his opinion, and I agree that trading away a top prospect (especially a catching prospect) for what amounts to a middle reliever isn’t really a good deal. But, since there is no way to undo the deed, let’s look at how the addition of Matt Capps might affect the bullpen.

Before the addition of Capps, the bullpen was actually pretty solid. The Twins’ relievers were posting a 3.12 ERA, 3.82 FIP, and 4.42 xFIP. Their strikeout rate was among the lowest in the league, at just 6.34 K/9, but luckily so was their walk rate (2.61 Bb/9), giving them a decent 2.43 K/BB ratio. They were also good at inducing ground balls (0.98 GB/FB ratio) and keeping the ball in the ballpark (6.9 HR/FB ratio), which obviously helped keep their collective ERA low despite pitching to more contact than most fans would probably like (their 81.3% contact rate is the fourth-worst in all of baseball, ahead of only the Cardinals, Royals, and Indians). Basically, this is a long and nerdy way of saying that the bullpen was in the middle-of-the pack: hardly a core of elite relievers, but good enough to get the job done most of the time.

The addition of Capps doesn’t really improve the bullpen very much, at least in terms of stats. As the boss pointed out in his post, Capps and Rauch are pretty similar. Rauch has a slightly better strikeout rate, Capps has a slightly better walk rate, and the rest of their peripherals are pretty much a wash. However, while Rauch did a pretty good job as closer, that isn’t really the best role for him. The tall one has been one of the most durable and reliable relievers since 2005. His ability to pitch two innings on a regular basis was one of the main reasons he was acquired at the deadline last year, and it is silly to reserve his arm for save situations alone. With few reliable options for set-up men, Gardy has been leaning hard on Matt Guerrier. The Mayor has tossed 45.2 innings already this season and his arm might be feeling the affects: he’s posting an ERA of 8.00 in the month of July. The acquisition of Matt Capps gives Gardy greater flexibility with his middle relievers, and might help preserve Matt Guerrier’s arm.

There is no question that the Twins overpaid for Matt Capps. He isn’t an elite closer, though this would still be an overpay even if he were. However, if it helps prevent the best reliever in the bullpen from wearing down while in the midst of a pennant race, it won’t be one of the worst trades ever.

Erin is a contributing writer for Twinkie Talk. You can follow her on Twitter, or email her at erinm725 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Tags: Jon Rauch Matt Capps Matt Guerrier Wilson Ramos

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