As you probably know, Carter Capps is a young right-handed reliever for the Seattle Mariners that throws 100-101 MPH. However, he has been used in virtually only low leverage situations and has been hittable at times since being called up to the big leagues. While the fastball ensures that he is a Major League pitcher, the problem lies with a real lack of a secondary pitch. He was able to dominate AA Jackson with just his fastball, but as announcer Chris Harris pointed out (I pointed it out as well when I saw him), he really lacked a breaking ball. There was no real need for it in AA. He does have a secondary pitch, a curveball (Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing wrote a little about his changeup on Thursday), and Capps has thrown it some in the big leagues. Because he throws so hard, it actually has slider velocity, coming in at about 83 MPH.
Sullivan already pointed out Capps insane release point when he first broke into the big leagues. Here is what it looks like:
It barely fits on the page, and has to be impossible for right-handers to see. This chart and his visualization chart below pointed out that there is some inconsistency in his release point (which isn’t uncommon for young pitchers or hard-throwing relievers) and that his curveball is specifically released higher than his fastball(s).
Here is his movement chart (which will come in handy when we are comparing him with other pitchers):
I wanted to compare Capps’ curveball and higher release point to other pitchers to see if it is a workable curve and whether or not the release point is an issue. Let’s start with some Mariners. Hisashi Iwakuma’s curve has not been very good according to run values
It looks very similar in both break (or perhaps more properly, loop) and release point. Jason Vargas’ curve has been the worst on the team according to run values, but he doesn’t have the same problem with the release point.
Kevin Millwood’s curve is a tick above average according to run values and his release point on the curve is slightly above his other pitches, but not near as drastically as Iwakuma’s or Capps’:
He also gets some pretty good downward movement that Capps simply doesn’t get:
Of course, if we talked about Mariners pitchers and didn’t talk about King Felix, we would be missing an opportunity to talk about a great pitcher. I don’t want to miss that opportunity:
He releases his curve above his other pitches as well, making it just about impossible to say that it is a negative thing to do so, especially when you see how good Felix’s curve is/can be (the perfect game comes to mind). Of course, Felix gets some really good movement on his curveball (and really all his pitches):
In the Majors, there are two pitchers who have 0 run value on their curves (meaning it is average), Jake Peavy and Mike Minor. As you will see, one of them has a curve that is released higher, and one of them doesn’t:
Here are Peavy and Minor’s movement charts:
As you see, Capps is getting more horizontal movement on his and getting similar vertical movement. That is a very encouraging sign for him and the Mariners.
Many believe that Justin Verlander has the best curveball in all of baseball. According to run values, that title goes to Adam Wainwright. So let’s take a look at both of their curves from the side:
Verlander releases his curveball slightly higher than his other pitches, but not by much. Wainwright releases his above his other pitches like Capps and Iwakuma (the release points charts show the same thing). The curveballs of Verlander and Wainwright break differently, so they may be hard to compare, as this shot from over the top shows:
Wainwright’s curve is the classic slow curve with downward drop. Verlander’s moves slightly more side to side. When we look at Capps’, we see that his curve has the side movement (which was also showed by his movement chart):
These charts should give you a better idea of the really good movement that Verlander and Wainwright get on their curves:
Obviously Capps just doesn’t have the movement on his curve that Verlander and Wainwright do, as they are able to make it break downward much better. Run values also seems to agree with Pitch F/X that Wainwright’s curve is the best. It also seems that for whatever reason, many pitchers release their curveballs above their other pitches (I would love to know why). Capps curveball is not elite, but we already knew that and it doesn’t need to be. He is a reliever that throws 100 MPH. He just needs something that is workable that he can mix in to keep hitters honest. There is also enough promise in the pitch according to this data to show that it could be a decent to average pitch. If it becomes this, there is nothing stopping Capps from being an elite major league reliever.