When will the Capuano experiment end?

With the Dodgers having won 51 of their last 65 games (.748) since June 22, it’s tough to be overly critical of them. That being said and in spite of having one of the most feared line-ups and most dominating bullpens in all of baseball right now, there is one glaring weakness with the team – the number five spot in their starting rotation; a spot that has been filled by Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly, Matt Magill and Stephen Fife thus far this season.

With Billingsley and Beckett out until the 2014 season, Harang and Lilly finally gone, and Magill and Fife both back down in Triple-A Albuquerque, Capuano has become the full-time fifth starter since returning from the disabled list on June 19. Since then he is 3-3 with an ERA of 4.73. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Capuano is 0-1 with an ERA of 7.44 in his last four starts and he has failed to go longer than 5 innings in any of them. In other words, Chris Capuano is still the weakest link in the Dodgers rotation and has been all season long – when he wasn’t on the DL, that is.

In his last four outings Capuano is 0-1 with three no decisions. He has allowed 15 earned runs and 32 hits in 19.1 innings and hasn’t gone longer than 5 innings in any of those four starts. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

During Capuano’s DL absences, Stephen Fife has been the most frequently used spot starter. Unfortunately, Fife has also spent two very costly stints on the DL; costly in that they have apparently caused Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti to no longer consider Fife for a permanent spot in the Dodger rotation.

Since returning from his second DL stint for bursitis in his right shoulder, the 26-year-old Fife has made six rehab appearances with the Isotopes (four starts) in which he is 1-3 with a 7.44 ERA – which is identical to Capuano’s ERA in his last four starts with the Dodgers. The big difference of course is that four of Fife’s six appearances have been in hitter-friendly Isotopes Park and it’s 5,300-foot altitude.

Putting Fife’s minor league numbers aside, his stats with the Dodgers this season absolutely blow the doors off of Capuano; in fact, it isn’t even close. In his nine starts with the Dodgers this season Fife is 4-3 with an outstanding 2.47 ERA. He has walked 14 and struck out 40 in 51 innings pitched. Were it not for a complete lack of run support, Fife should be 6-1 (or at least 5-2).

Will Dodger GM Ned Colletti ever realize that Stephen Fife is a much better fifth starter option than Chris Capuano? (Photo credit - Ron Cervenka)

Stephen Fife has proven time and again that he is a much better option than Capuano to be the Dodgers permanent fifth starter. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

While it’s easy to blame Sunday’s 8-1 loss to the Red Sox on a complete lack of offense by a suddenly ice cold Dodgers line-up, it is safe to say that Capuano was mediocre at best. In fact, had it not been for an absolutely brilliant 5-4-3 double play started by Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe to end the first inning, the score could have easily been 4-0 (or more) in first inning instead of 1-0.

With the Dodgers leading the NL West by 9.5 games over the Diamondbacks and with Colletti’s reluctance to end the failed Chris Capuano experiment, Chris will most likely make one more start before rosters expand on September 1. And just as it has been for nearly every Capuano start for the past two seasons, Dodger fans will wonder once again which Chris Capuano will show up. Unfortunately, the good Chris Capuano has been missing in action for the past month and there is little reason to believe that he will return anytime soon, thus leaving us with the bad Chris Capuano.

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10 Responses to “When will the Capuano experiment end?”

  1. OldBrooklynFan says:

    I agree that we sure can use a better fifth starter than Capuano, but it would’ve taken quite a gem to beat Peavy, who was truly on his game last night.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      It is difficult to beat anyone when you do not put your best nine out on the field – including your best five starters.

      This series was a true test of what the Dodgers can expect in the post-season and they failed miserably. It was absolutely foolish of Mattingly (and Colletti) to sit Ethier and Ellis and to start Capuano over Fife on Sunday (and to sit Crawford on Saturday).

      I get that Peavy, Lester and Lackey pitched exceptionally well against the Dodgers, but does Mattingly and Colletti (and you) expect opposing pitchers on first place teams fighting for a playoff berth not to pitch well? There was simply no excuse not to put the best players and pitchers on the field for this series, and the point of this article is that Fife was (and is) a much better option than Capuano.

      My biggest fear is that the Dodgers may seriously believe that they are unstoppable. And though they might be against lesser teams, they most certainly are not against teams fighting for a playoff berth such as the Red Sox, Reds and Diamondbacks.

  2. Evan Bladh says:

    At the risk of getting shredded here, let me just say that the number 5 starting spot is not that big of a concern to me.

    First, because when post-season play begins, the slot doesn’t exist. Second, because Capuano or Fife or whoever it is, will not make the post season roster. Third, the Dodgers have created enough cushion between them and the D-Backs, the they can afford to run a weak starter out there every five days.

    Essentially, the number five guy serves as an innings eater and someone that gives Grienke, Kershaw, Ryu and Nolasco their adequate days of rest. Every once in a while he pitches a good enough game to get a win. Actually, more than every once in a while. As bad as he has been, before last night, the Dodgers had won all seven games that Capuano started after the All Star break.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      As bad as he has been, before last night, the Dodgers had won all seven games that Capuano started after the All Star break.

      And this gives you comfort? Capuano has exactly one win since the All-Star break and was as much a part of the other six Dodger wins as you and I were, Evan. Most of those wins were great come-from-behind wins that were caused because of Capuano’s ineptitude and those situations probably would not have occurred had Fife been pitching. Granted, Fife was injured for a couple of them, but he was and still is a better option than Capuano.

      Capuano’s career numbers show that he has never been anything but a mediocre .500 pitcher (.468 actually) with a career ERA of 4.31. And though the sample size is small, Fife is 4-5 in his brief career with an exceptional 2.55 ERA.

      The Dodgers are in the position that they are in with little help from Capuano and are extremely fortunate that the Diamondbacks lost quite a few games when the Dodgers won.

      I believe that a cavalier “hey, it doesn’t matter anyway” attitude could cause the Dodgers to be three and out in the first round of the playoffs and I sincerely hope that they do not take this attitude. As I have said many times, the Dodgers have a knack of not ‘stepping on the throats of their opponents’ when they should, and this includes having a guy like Capuano in the starting rotation solely because he is owed more money than Stephen Fife.

      • Evan Bladh says:

        It doesn’t give me comfort at all BUT it is the 5th starter position and that being the case, there’s no need to get too nervous about this. The Dodgers have the luxury of having 4 starters that are going to give a quality start effort 8 out of 10 starts. With the # 5 spot, it’s probably 4 out of 10. I can live with that and apparently the Dodgers can too because they’re 10 games up in the loss column going with that formula.

        Fife isn’t the same pitcher after going down with injury for the 3rd time this season. He hardly can be relied upon at this point. I love the guy and what he brought to the table, and I hope I’m wrong, but his AAA numbers don’t look right to me. Beyond that who has Major League experience? Do we want Magill back in the rotation? How about Jonathan Sanchez and his 5+ ERA at Albuquerque.

        Zack Lee, Ross Stripling or Chris Reed at Chattanooga? I suppose we can see what they’ve got. I wouldn’t be opposed to giving any of them a start or two.

        As far as having a “cavalier” attitude about things. I think you’re way off mark there. If FIfe was the lights out guy we saw 6 weeks ago, yes, then he should be back, but he isn’t. Championship teams have mediocre to poor # 5 starters all the time. Capuano toeing the rubber every five games doesn’t break the season. If he was called upon to start in post season play, that’s another story but he won’t even make the roster.

        Flame away…

    • Cy Young says:

      I concur. Are there other options besides Capuano? I heard Fife has not been stretched out in innings in a long time,
      so starting would be difficult

  3. ebbetsfld says:

    I’m worried about Fife. While you point out that he was pitching in hitter-friendly Isotopes Park, he was facing AAA hitters. I suspect he will be much better next spring, but then we also have Billingsley and Beckett back. I agree that Capuano seems to have pitched himself out of the rotation, but I also agree with Evan that a fifth starter is not needed for the post season. Personally, I’d like to see Zach Lee given a shot at the fifth starter role.

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