Matt Capps

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Matthew Dicus Capps

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Biographical Information[edit]

Matt Capps was a relief ace with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals, making the trek to the 2010 All-Star Game, whose career went off the rails following a deal to the Minnesota Twins.

Control specialist Capps was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 7th round in 2002 and signed with scout Jack Powell instead of going to LSU. He debuted with the GCL Pirates, saving a game and winning a gam in 7 appearances, posting a 0.69 ERA and an uncharacteristic six walks in 13 innings. In 2003, Matt allowed three runs in five innings, walking four with the Lynchburg Hillcats, and had a 5-1 record with a 1.87 ERA in 10 starts for the GCL Pirates. He struck out 54, allowed 40 hits and walked nine in 63 innings. He was named the top starting pitcher in the Gulf Coast League and finished fourth in ERA, while leading in innings pitched. In 2004, Matt struggled with the Hickory Crawdads (2-3, 10.07, a .402 opposing average) and was 3-5, 4.85 for the Williamsport Crosscutters, walking 4 in 65 innings).

Now legally able to drink without fear of reprisal, Capps put it all together in 2005. He was 3-4 with 14 saves and a 2.52 for Hickory, went 0-2 with 7 saves and a 2.70 ERA for the Altoona Curve and capped it with a September stop in Pittsburgh, allowing two runs (4.50 ERA) in four games. He walked only 6 batters in 73 2/3 innings, striking out 65. Capps made the Bucs out of spring training the ensuing spring, bypassing Triple A, and went 9-1 with a 3.79 ERA and only 12 walks in 80 2/3 innings (five of those walks were intentional). His 84 appearances fell one shy of the major league rookie record held by Oscar Villarreal and shattered Rich Loiselle's club rookie record.

Capps was suspended for four games in May 2007 for hitting the Milwaukee Brewers top slugger, Prince Fielder, on an 0-1 pitch following a home run off the bat of J.J. Hardy. Capps appealed, saying it was not intentional. The suspension would not be ruled on until late June, when it was reduced by one game. Around that time, Capps became the Pirates' closer, Salomon Torres gift-wrapping him the job after blowing 4 of his first 16 save opportunities. Matt was 4-7 with 18 saves and a 2.28 ERA in 76 outings, with only a 1.103 WHIP. He issued just 6 unintentional walks in 79 innings. Closing again in 2008, Matt was 2-3 with 21 saves and a 3.02 ERA, walking only 5 in 53 2/3 innings. Only set-up man John Grabow had a lower ERA for the Bucs that year. Things fell apart in 2009 as he was just 2-8 with 27 saves (10th most in the NL) and a 5.80 ERA; he allowed an extremely unlucky .324/.373/.533 batting line and walked 14 unintentionally in 54 1/3 innings, not bad, but not up to his usual standard of excellence.

When Capps refused the Pirates' offer for a raise for 2010, having the temerity to ask for a better raise given his performance thus far, Pittsburgh predictably cheaped out and non-tendered him, making him a free agent. They left open the possibility of re-signing him if he could not find a club willing to meet his salary demands but Capps, naturally, got a better deal, signing with the Washington Nationals for $3.5 million. He had a very good first half for the Nationals in 2010, going 3-3 with 26 saves and a 2.74 ERA in 47 games; that earned him a spot on the All-Star team. Then, at the [[trading deadline], Washington sent him to the Minnesota Twins for a pair of youngsters, including future two-time All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos. He slid in as the Twins' closer and added another 16 saves in 27 games with a 2.00 ERA. He pitched once in the ALDS against the New York Yankees, but gave up a run on two hits in his only inning of work as the Twins were swept. In 2011, he filled in for the returned Joe Nathan as closer while Nathan was struggling to find his form, but Matt did not pitch as well as the previous year. He was 4-7 with a 4.25 ERA and 15 saves in 69 games as the Twins fell to last place.

Nathan left as a free agent after the season, giving Capps another shot at closing in 2012. He started strong, picking up his 14th save on June 4th, at which time his ERA was a solid 3.22. He began to struggle with injuries after that, going on the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder on June 24th. He was reactivated on July 14th, but after only 2 pitching appearances, felt more pain and went right back on the DL. He finished the season 1-4 with 14 saves and a 3.68 ERA. It was his last big league action. He hung around the minors gamely for a few more years, hoping to coax another team into an opportunity. He allowed one run in seven innings for the 2013 Columbus Clippers in the Cleveland Indians chain, but was plagued by further injuries. He allowed five runs (four earned) in five innings with the AZL Indians in 2014, did not pitch in the summer of 2015, then had a good winter for the Criollos de Caguas (3 hits, 2 runs allowed (only one earned) and no walks in 7 innings). That earned him one last look, with the Arizona Diamondbacks' Reno Aces in 2016 (4-0, 3 saves, 5.15 in 39 games).

In 444 major league games, Mr. Capps was 29-33 with 138 saves and a 3.52 ERA. He issued only 60 unintentional walks in 439 2/3 innings. Through 2019, he was 98th in MLB history in saves. In the winter of 2019, Pittsburgh announced he would join Kevin Young and Michael McKenry to fill Steve Blass's spot as color commentator on games.

Primary Sources: 2003-2006 Baseball Almanacs, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NL All-Star (2010)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 1 (2010)
  • 40 saves Seasons: 1 (2010)

Related Sites[edit]