It's been a rough month of July thus far for Matt Capps.
On Saturday night, the right-hander entered to protect a three-run lead against Milwaukee in the ninth, only to yield four runs on five hits while recording two outs, giving away the remnants of what was once a seven-run edge.
The following day, he came on with a two-run lead, but gave up two quick hits while recording only one out and was replaced with Glen Perkins, who closed out the win.
Last night, Capps came on in a 3-1 ballgame, immediately surrendered a home run, then surrounded two outs with a hit and a walk before once again being pulled in favor of Perkins, who once again finished the job.
That's three consecutive multi-run leads that Capps has been unable to close out. Not exactly what you're looking for in a closer, especially when your offensively challenged club needs to play .630 ball the rest of the way in order to have a realistic shot at the postseason.
Ron Gardenhire is publicly maintaining that Capps is still the Twins' closer, but there's no doubt that his confidence has waned. Gardy's given the righty an uncharacteristically short leash over his past two outings (for which the manager deserves a lot of credit), and Capps hadn't been particularly effective prior to this month, converting only 13 of 18 save chances.
At this point, fans are calling for Capps' head (I think I learned some new cuss words sitting out by the bullpen at Target Field last night) but the reality is that he's a good -- not great -- reliever that's going through a slump. It's sort of similar, in fact, to the skid that struck Jon Rauch in July of last year, prompting the Twins to trade for Capps in the first place.
Since that swap, Capps has gone 29-for-37 in save opportunities. That 78 percent conversion rate is decidedly mediocre and is actually exactly the same as Rauch's rate over the past two years with Minnesota and Toronto. Similar results for similarly good-but-not-great relief pitchers.
What many said at the time has now been unequivocally proven: there was no mystical quality to Capps' "closing experience," for which the enamored Twins gave up their top catching prospect at the deadline last year and overpaid wildly in arbitration this year. They got suckered.
But there's no use in beating a dead horse. Right now I can only hope that the Twins' decision-makers have learned their lesson, and that they're prepared to swallow their pride and get somebody in the ninth inning who can throw the ball past a hitter once in a while.
It's not his last three outings that have made it obvious Capps is a bad fit in the closer role. It's his 5.3 K/9IP rate on the season. Consistent success is almost unachievable for a reliever allowing that much contact.