The Persistent Chris Capuano

Sunday afternoon, the Brewers made their final cuts and finalized the 25-man roster heading into Opening Day. Somehow, at 37 years old and carrying the weight of 11 major league seasons, 1,405 innings pitched and two Tommy John surgeries on his left arm, still standing with a spot in the Brewers bullpen is Chris Capuano, who will suit up for the Brewers for the first time since in 2010. Capuano looked fantastic in spring training, as he allowed just two runs on 10 hits over 13.1 Cactus League innings. His emergence gives the Brewers a much-needed left-hander in the bullpen to relieve the pressure on the rest of the righties.

In the middle of the previous decade, it looked like Capuano was going to be a key piece of the next contending Brewers team. He won 18 games in 2005 and made the All-Star team in 2006, when he threw 221.1 innings with a 4.03 ERA (113 ERA+, back in that time of plentiful offense) and 3.7 K/BB. In 2007, he won his first five decisions and looked poised for another All-Star appearance, with a 2.31 ERA and 31 strikeouts through his first 39 innings.

And then it all fell apart. Not only did Capuano fail to win another game for the rest of the season, covering 18 starts and four relief appearances, the Brewers didn’t win a single game Capuano appeared in. In his final 111 innings, Capuano posted a brutal 6.08 ERA. Before he could even try and get things right in 2008, Capuano was forced to undergo the second Tommy John surgery of his career.

The success rate for a second Tommy John surgery, according to Baseball America, is 78.7 percent, about the same success rate for the surgery in general. Joakim Soria, Brian Wilson, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Beachy, Daniel Hudson and Kris Medlen have all made successful comebacks from a second Tommy John surgery. But by the time Capuano had rehabilitated from the second surgery and was back pitching for the Brewers’ rookie league teams in 2009, he was already 30 years old and had spent 26 months of the prime of his career rehabilitating his elbow. Beyond the physical pain, Capuano was put through a mental grind.

When Capuano returned to the Brewers in 2010, he was still working on that 22-game losing streak that ended his 2007 season. He started against the Marlins on June 3rd, 2010 in his post-surgery debut, served up three runs and seven hits in 3.2 innings, and took the loss. He then worked out of the bullpen in three losses through the rest of June. As a result, Capuano’s streak of appearing in Brewers losses was extended to 26 games, tying a major league record set by Ed Walsh in 1930 and tied by Paul Erickson in 1942 (minimum one full inning pitched per appearance).


Rk Name Strk Start End Games L GS IP ERA Tm
1 Chris Capuano 2007-05-13 2010-06-30 26 13 19 118.0 6.03 MIL
2 Paul Erickson 1942-05-02 1943-09-05 26 8 7 83.2 5.06 CHC
3 Ed Walsh 1930-06-13 1930-09-12 26 3 2 73.1 4.17 CHW
4 Roger Bowman 1953-06-05 1955-04-17 25 4 2 55.2 4.85 PIT
5 Wilbur Wood 1963-06-17 1964-04-18 24 4 4 55.2 4.20 BOS
6 Xavier Hernandez 1990-04-19 1990-08-28 23 0 0 47.0 5.55 HOU
7 Thad Tillotson 1967-06-28 1967-09-24 23 6 0 45.1 4.17 NYY
8 Bill Kirksieck 1939-06-21 1939-09-30 23 2 2 62.2 7.18 PHI
9 George Turbeville 1937-05-25 1937-09-11 23 4 3 66.0 4.50 PHA
10 Curt Fullerton 1922-08-23 1923-07-21 22 6 6 53.1 5.91 BOS
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/4/2016.


Thankfully, Capuano was given the ninth inning of Milwaukee’s July 3rd, 2010 12-5 blowout victory over St. Louis to end the streak. On July 19th, 2010, Capuano made his second start of the season and defeated the Pirates with five innings pitched and just three hits and one run allowed.

Baseball has hurled a lot at Chris Capuano, but he has pushed through it all. His results have been mediocre since his return — 4.38 ERA (86 ERA+) in 694 innings since 2010 — but baseball will always need for lefties, and Capuano has been there to answer the call every year. When Capuano was hurt before the 2008 season, I thought there was no way we’d see him back in Milwaukee again. And when I first wrote about Capuano’s unfortunate record-setting streak back in 2010 I thought there was no way I’d still be writing about Capuano and the Brewers half a decade later.

Capuano is as persistent as it gets in baseball. I don’t know if he’ll be productive for the Brewers. It’s been a while since he’s been good, and he’s a 37-year-old with an elbow kept around only by the greatest miracles of modern surgical science. At this point, however, I think we should know better than to bet against him.

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