By the nature of their jobs, MLB relief pitchers live and die by small sample sizes; and it wasn’t so long ago that the sample size for Carter Capps‘ body of work in 2013 indicated that he was, to put it nicely, a mess.
With at least a run allowed in six of his first 13 appearances and four home runs in that 17-inning span, the Seattle Mariners‘ appointed hard-throwing setup man (in lieu of the injured Stephen Pryor) was anything but a reliable bridge to closer Tom Wilhelmsen.
Things got so bad, in fact, that rumblings of a take-a-breather demotion to Triple-A, where Capps only has 1.1 innings of experience, was not entirely out of the picture … at least among M’s fans.
Like all things involving small sample sizes, however, it didn’t take too long for things to settle into the norm, and the norm said that despite the 5.29/1.47 ERA/WHIP that the righty carried after a yet another two-run implosion on May 7, this was a strikeout artist who’d set down batters at a 11.65 K/9 rate to go with an excellent 2.12 BB/9 up to that point.
In short, Capps should be better than his numbers indicated — and since then, he’s been just that.
Including his latest 0.2 IP, one-hit appearance in the eighth inning to help protect a 3-1 lead for Hisashi Iwakuma the Mariners on Monday, Capps has not allowed just one run since the shaky ground he was on in early May. Through 11 innings in those 13 appearances, he’s allowed just 10 hits and a trio of walks while striking out 12. Just for the contrasting purposes, that’s good for a 0.82/1.18 ERA/WHIP and a 9.81 K/9.
Now, a number of those appearances were in low-leverage situations, but it’s not difficult to see why the closer-in-waiting has all but worked his way back to the setup job that was intended for him.
That’s not to say that it’s all smooth sailing from here, of course.
With a .277 BAA on the season, Capps is hardly the unhittable late-inning reliever envisioned by the M’s yet. At just 22-years-old though, there’s plenty of time for him to get there, and bumps on the road (and the process of getting over them) will only make him that much more dangerous when he becomes a seasoned asset in the bigs.