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Matt Capps

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Matthew Dicus Capps

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[edit] Biographical Information

Matt Capps, who has pitched seven seasons in the big leagues through 2011, went 9-1 in 2006 on a team that lost 95 games. He served as Pittsburgh's closer for two and a half years.

Control specialist Capps was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 7th round of the 2002 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Jack Powell instead of going to Louisiana State University. He debuted with the GCL Pirates, saving one game and winning one in 7 appearances, posting a 0.69 ERA and an uncharasteristic 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. He led the league 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).

At age 21, 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 all with a September stop in Pittsburgh in four games. He walked only 6 batters in 73 2/3 innings, striking out 65. Capps made the 2006 Pirates out of Spring Training, bypassing AAA 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 of 2007 for hitting Prince Fielder on an 0-1 pitch following a homer by 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. Capps became the Pirates' closer in June of 2007, after Salomon Torres had blown 4 of his first 16 save opportunities. He was 4-7 with 18 saves and a 2.28 ERA in 76 outings, with only a 1.103 WHIP. He had just 6 unintentional walks in 79 innings.

Matt was the closer for the 2008 Pirates, going 2-3 with 21 saves and a 3.02 ERA, walking only 5 in 53 2/3 IP. Only set-up man John Grabow had a lower ERA for the Bucs that year. Things fell apart for Capps in 2009 as he was just 2-8 with 27 saves and a 5.80 ERA; he allowed a .324/.373/.533 batting line and walked 14 unintentionally in 54 1/3 IP, not bad, but not up to his usual. He was 10th in the 2009 NL in saves.

When Capps refused the Pirates' offer for a raise for 2010, demanding a larger raise despite his 2008 performance, Pittsburgh 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 did get a bigger deal than Pittsburgh was offering, 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 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 back, but he 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. However, Nathan left as a free agent after the season, giving Capps another shot at the top job in the Twins' bullpen in 2012.

Capps started the 2012 season strongly, picking up his 14th save on June 4th, at which time his ERA was a solid 3.22. However, 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.

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

[edit] Notable Achievements

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

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