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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Twins MVP Through 1/16 of Season: Matt Capps

Though it's very early into 2011, the Twins sure haven't looked great, especially on offense. This is underscored by the fact that, in one game, Michael Cuddyer was able to double his batting average by compiling 4 hits. The offense just hasn't been there with any consistency. There have, however, been a few bright spots.

If asked to pick a Twins MVP through this first rough stretch, I would select Matt Capps, hands down. Having been a successful closer for the Washington Nationals, and having stepped into that role last summer for the Twins, it had to have been a blow to Capps' pride to be shifted into the set-up man role upon Joe Nathan's return. True to his nature as a generally good guy, though, Capps said not a single word in opposition of this move. Instead, he has let his efficient pitching do the talking.

Aside from an ugly inning in Toronto during an ugly Twins loss on April 2, where Capps allowed 3 hits and 1 run in an inning of work, he has been excellent. More specifically, in his 4 subsequent appearances out of the bullpen, totaling 5 2/3 innings, Capps has not allowed a hit, a walk or a run. What is most impressive to me, however, is his pitching efficiency. For example, in the Twins' lone win against the Yankees, Capps pitched 2 full innings and threw only 16 pitches. And, in nearly 2 innings last night against the Royals, he threw only 19 pitches, 15 for strikes, stranding a runner on 3rd base with a clutch strikeout. He is performing his new role extremely well, namely, serving as a bridge between the starter/relief pitcher and Joe Nathan.

Further, because Capps has not been throwing very many pitches per outing, the Twins should be able to make use of his services as often as needed--hopefully very often. Finally, although I don't have a statistic for this, it appears to me that the balls hit against Capps have generally not been that well struck. There have been many routine grounders and fly balls that have saved Twins' fielders from having to make superb plays to keep the team, and Capps, in the game.

Simply stated, the Twins made a very good decision when they decided to retain Capps, although many fans wondered, at the time, why the Twins were essentially paying two closers. Now we know: Joe Nathan, although effective, isn't 100% yet, and Capps, in the set-up role, can easily close if needed. On paper, the Twins have an incredibly dominant 8th and 9th inning pitching combo. Now, they just need starters to pitch 7 innings, and the offense to get a lead.

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