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Carter Capps And The Perfect At-Bat

Otto Greule Jr - Getty Images

Shown below are two American League rookies, one facing the other Thursday afternoon in Anaheim. Both rookies shown possess extraordinary, exceptional natural talent. They are, after all, in the major leagues. One of the rookies shown isn't even the runaway favorite to win the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year award -- "favorite" implies that there's more than one choice, and one of the rookies shown is essentially the only choice for the award. The other rookie shown struck him the fuck out.




Those are just three pitches of what was a five-pitch at-bat. They're pitches #2, #4, and #5. The first pitch was a 99mph fastball that barely missed high. The second pitch was a 98mph fastball up and on the inner edge. The third pitch was a 98mph fastball thrown at Mike Trout's belt buckle. The fourth pitch was a 100mph fastball on the inner half. The fifth pitch was an 84mph breaking ball barely down and away. Look at where the breaking ball is caught, and consider that MLB Gameday has it touching the border of the strike zone at the front of the plate. That's how much that pitch moved.

I don't have anything profound to say about this at-bat, nor do I have anything particularly creative. This just struck me as an at-bat worth dwelling upon, because Carter Capps made Mike Trout look absolutely helpless and Mike Trout is amazing. With both of those swings at fastballs, Trout was behind. With that last swing at the breaking ball, Trout was hopelessly in front. It's not that Mike Trout rarely swings and misses, because his contact rate is roughly league-average. He's not Ichiro or Albert Pujols or Marco Scutaro in that regard. But it's one of the hardest things in baseball to make Mike Trout look overmatched, and that's exactly what Carter Capps pulled off.

And this is why Carter Capps has such a high ceiling as a late-inning reliever. He's not fully developed yet, and he's gaining valuable experience every single day. He has some work to do with his command and he has some work to do mixing in his various pitches. But Capps' stuff is so good it affords him a considerable margin of error. He doesn't have to locate his pitches with pinpoint precision because he throws a hundred miles per hour and people are learning he's got a breaking ball too. With a little improvement, the arm angle should make Capps nearly impossible for righties to hit. Lefties should have an easier time, but only relatively speaking. This year, southpaw Aroldis Chapman has held lefties to a .330 OPS. Righties have hit him to the tune of a .499 OPS. That's both a wide platoon split and a hilarious platoon split.

Not that I think Carter Capps is going to become anything like 2012 Aroldis Chapman, but it takes just a few seconds of watching Capps pitch to understand that he could go on to achieve some incredible things. Mike Trout would tell you as much if he hadn't been left completely speechless. I'm going to go ahead and let hyperbole rule the day, by the way. Should've told you that before. Carter Capps could become literally unhittable! Yes, this feels good, this feels like a thing to do on a Friday.

Look at that breaking ball. Just look at it. Just, look at it. Are you looking at it? No, you're looking at these words. Look at that breaking ball. The guy who throws that breaking ball also throws baseball's second-fastest fastball. I mean, holy fuck, right?