Miami Marlins relief pitcher Carter Capps has become well-known around Major League Baseball for his unique delivery. It has helped him compile a 1.23 earned run average through 22 innings pitched so far in 2015.
While the motion of his entire body aids in unsettling batters, it’s not the entire reason for Capps’ success in 2015. His location and velocity have also enabled him to put up solid numbers to this point in the season.
Capps has thrown his four-seam fastball nearly 65 percent of the time so far this season, with an average velocity of 97.8 miles per hour. He has split the other 35 percent of his pitches nearly equally between his slider and his knuckle curve. The average velocity on his slider so far in 2015 is 83.9 mph. The contrast grows even more with his knuckle curve, dipping down to 83.7 mph.
His ability to pull the string on his breaking balls, coupled with the consistent repetition of his delivery, have enabled him to live outside the strike zone. Batters are seeing only 44 percent of Capps’ pitches inside the strike zone so far this season.
Batters aren’t picking up on the location and forcing him to come into the strike zone, either. Capps has delivered a first-pitch strike in nearly 69 percent of the at-bats he has pitched so far, and he has only faced 14 batters with a three-ball count so far this season.
Capps has avoided hitters’ counts because of the frequency at which batters are offering at his pitches outside of the strike zone. Because of the elements already mentioned, those swings are rarely resulting in contact being made. To this point in 2015, 75 percent of such swings have produced nothing but the sound of the bat moving through the air.
Those numbers change drastically when Capps does enter the strike zone, however. Batters are swinging at his pitches more (65.4 percent) and making contact more (66.7 percent). Although with a ground ball rate of 46.9 percent and a medium-hit ball percentage of 44.1, even those balls which are put in play in fair territory are turning into outs much more than hits.
To put these numbers into context, he is outperforming many of his more well-known peers in these aspects. Considering only relievers who have hurled at least 20 innings to this point in the season, Capps has been one of MLB’s best.
His average fastball velocity this season is just south of that of Aroldis Chapman and Arquimedes Caminero. The contrast between the velocities of Capps’ fastball and secondary pitches is greater than either Caminero’s or Chapman’s. Capps also has a greater distribution of his pitches, as Chapman is throwing his fastball nearly 77 percent of the time. Caminero is throwing his fastball just over 71 percent of the time.
Only Jared Hughes of the Pittsburgh Pirates has induced swings at pitches outside the zone at a higher rate than Capps, but such pitches from Capps are resulting in contact actually being made at lower rate than all other qualifying relievers in MLB in 2015. Capps is 12th among qualifying relievers in first-pitch strikes, and tops in all of MLB in percentage of pitches which result in swings and misses. Capps’ knuckle curve has a horizontal movement statistic of 4.6, sixth-best among qualified relievers.
While the motion of Capps’ delivery greatly aids his effectiveness, Capps is more than a freakish figure on the mound. He has been able to use his other mechanics to augment that uncanny signature motion, and his replication of those mechanics should lead to the replication of his success for years to come.