The Nats welcome Capps to Washington
Matt Capps received the best Christmas present he possibly could have got in the baseball world. It wasn’t from the North Pole but coming from the Nationals made it just as special. A day before Christmas, Capps agreed to a one-year deal with the Nationals. He officially unwrapped it today when he signed the contract.
With the Redskins naming Mike Shanahan their coach at 2 p.m., the Nationals kept the Capps signing low key and hosted an informal press conference in the cozy confines of the Nats clubhouse.
“This is a major, major announcement for the Washington Nationals, as important as Jason and Pudge in my opinion,” said GM Mike Rizzo, wanting to make it clear that even though it was an informal press conference, Capps is an impactful player. “He is a 26-year-old closer that we control and [can] grow with the franchise for a long time to come.”
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Capps is a man of faith and is everything the Nationals embody. He brings a winning attitude on and off the field and has a strong commitment to the community. He is built more like a linebacker than a closer, has a neck like a wrestler and has the hard-nosed, fearless and unflappable mindset of all three.
The 26-year-old Capps didn’t need much convincing on coming to Washington either. He has been impressed with the moves they have made this offseason and will have the chance to compete for the closer role–maybe the most important part. The Nats started pursuing him the minute after the Pirates non-tendered him but Capps was on Rizzo’s radar going back to last season’s trade deadline.
“It’s nothing [Rizzo had to say],” Capps said. “He already [had] done it with the moves that he has made.”
The Nationals have made it their priority this offseason to bolster a bullpen that ranked last in the Majors with a 5.04 ERA. He is the latest addition during a busy offseason for the Nats and they aren’t done. They acquired reliever Brian Bruney on the first day of the Winter Meetings, signed future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez to a two-year deal a few days later and signed starter and 2009 All-Star Jason Marquis right before Christmas.
Capps signed with Washington after spending his entire career in Pittsburgh going 19-19 with 29 holds, 67 saves and a 3.61 ERA in 271 appearances spanning five seasons (2005-09).
Capps is a control specialist that consistently pounds the strike zone with a 92-96 mph fastball. His career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.2/1 (208 strikeouts, 50 walks) ranks second among active closers with 50 or more saves. Only Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon (4.5/1) has posted a superior SO/BB ratio using those guidelines.
In 2009, Capps struggled locating his fastball and his numbers ballooned: a 5.80 ERA, 73 hits and 10 home runs in 54.1 innings.
“As a competitor I don’t think you ever have the season you want to have unless you throw a 0.00 ERA,” Capps said. “My numbers don’t look good from last year. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing or another that went wrong. My fastball went flat and I got away from it.”
The Nats aren’t worried and Rizzo knows that if he didn’t struggle in 2009 he wouldn’t be a Nationals player today.
“When the bullpen gate swings open, I am happy that 55 (Capps) is coming out of the bullpen,” Rizzo said. “If he didn’t post a 5-plus ERA, he wouldn’t be sitting with us right now.”
He only signed a one-year deal but the Nats will be able to offer him arbitration after the season. Rizzo doesn’t see it as a one-year deal. Nor does Capps.
“I don’t want to come to Washington and play for one year,” Capps said. “I want to be an impact player, have an impact on the team going forward and be a part of it for the next…until Mr. Rizzo gets tired of me.”
It is safe to say, Mr. Rizzo won’t get tired as long Capps continues to retire batters.