Last week, we talked about how Marlins reliever Carter Capps was headed to see Dr. James Andrews for a consultation on his right elbow.
Well, baseball fans know this math equation all too well, and that’s elbow injury + Dr. James Andrews visit = Tommy John surgery. This time was no different, as Capps discovered that he has a UCL tear that will require Tommy John surgery, which he’ll undergo today, effectively ending his 2016 season and the Marlins closer competition. Capps entered spring training as the favorite to take the ball in the ninth inning for the Marlins this year, after striking out 58 batters in 31 innings with a 1.16 ERA last year. But now we can assume that the job will go back to Miami’s closer of a year ago, A.J. Ramos, who saved 32 games for the Fish in 2015.
Now that we know that Capps needs Tommy John surgery at the age of 25, my question is, will he still use that same delivery when he returns? Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say that a 25-year-old pitcher needing Tommy John is unprecedented, but I mean, there HAS to be a correlation between that delivery and the fact that he needed this procedure done before he even started his age-25 season. I don’t know much about what kind of deliveries make you more or less susceptible to elbow injuries, but I suppose neither do these baseball executives, coaches or pitchers, because these kind of surgeries are more frequent than ever now. What I do know is that throwing overhand is an unnatural motion, so it’s safe to assume that Tommy John surgery will continue to be as much of a part of the game of baseball as batting gloves and eyeblack, but is there a way to limit how much of a part of the game it is?
If I were Capps, I would start with ditching such an unconventional delivery to the plate. It’s just too much strain on his elbow. There’s a misconception that Capps’ hop-step delivery has made his fastball faster. It’s not actually faster; it just appears that way. In reality, when Capps had a more traditional delivery, he could reach 100 MPH with his fastball. However, where the hop-step delivery is borderline cheating is because he releases the ball so much closer to the plate than everyone else, so his fastball looks like it’s coming in a lot faster than it really is.
Capps has the fastest PERCEIVED fastball in baseball. With the hop-step delivery, Capps’ fastball averaged out to be 97.6 MPH, but his average perceived velocity was 101 MPH, which was the highest in the MLB, and the widest gap between actual fastball velocity and perceived fastball velocity by a large margin. Imagine if Aroldis Chapman did this shit? He’d be pumping 115 MPH fastballs to home plate, and every at-bat would end with a strikeout or a homicide.