Daily Distractions: Why isn’t Chris Capuano on the Dodgers’ NLCS roster?

Chris Capuano

Chris Capuano walked three batters but didn’t allow a run in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Braves, earning the victory in his only postseason appearance. (Associated Press photo)

Five days ago, Chris Capuano said he “really had no idea” that he was going to be on the Dodgers’ roster for the National League Division Series.

“You have Carlos Marmol who’s just throwing the ball fantastic, you’ve got Brandon League, you’ve got Edinson Volquez, you’ve got some real power arms,” Capuano said. “It was exciting for me to have a chance to contribute.”

At the time, Capuano reeked of false modesty. He had just pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lasted just three innings in his MLB postseason debut. The veteran left-hander is the only pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw to win a game for the Dodgers this postseason. He validated manager Don Mattingly‘s faith in Capuano and his health — he missed three weeks in September with a strained groin — and seemed to have earned his keep as a long reliever for any similar situations in the National League Championship Series.

Why, then, was Capuano left off the Dodgers’ NLCS roster Friday morning?

Good question. The Cardinals own a .238/.301/.371 slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) against left-handed pitchers this season, .280/.343/.412 against right-handers.

The answer could lie in Capuano’s history against the Cardinals. He allowed six runs in his only start against St. Louis this year, and 10 runs in 8 ⅔ innings in two starts last year. In six games (five starts) at Busch Stadium, he’s 0-4 with a 7.90 earned-run average.

The answer might also lie in Capuano’s health. “I really started feeling better about five days before the end of the season,” he said Sunday.

Regardless, Capuano’s absence changes the possible scenarios in some dramatic ways. Volquez is the presumptive long-relief option, though his career numbers against the Cardinals aren’t much better than Capuano’s. And he pitches right-handed, which the Cards should like.

The Dodgers have used Marmol to get three outs or more five times in his 21 appearances since acquiring him from the Chicago Cubs (but never more than six outs). Chris Withrow and J.P. Howell are also multiple-inning options, but Howell is now the only left-hander in the bullpen. The Dodgers might prefer to use Howell situationally, against one or two left-handed hitters in several games, rather than counting on him for multiple innings in one or two games.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly will be explaining all of this in a few hours. Should be interesting.

Some bullet points for a National Coming Out Day:

• The Cardinals, as previously announced, are sticking with the same roster they used in the NLDS. One potentially important difference between the two teams: The Dodgers are using 11 pitchers and 14 position players; the Cardinals are using 12 pitchers and 13 position players.

Gerry Davis‘ crew was chosen to umpire the NLCS. Davis will call balls and strikes tonight, joined by Mark Carlson (1B), Mike Everitt (2B), Bruce Dreckman (3B), Ted Barrett (LF), Greg Gibson (RF). FanGraphs analyzed each of their strike zones, with the exception of Dreckman; Alfonso Marquez is on the ALCS crew this round. Carlson is the only one who has no prior LCS umpiring experience.

• Online oddsmaker Bovada released its updated World Series odds this morning, and the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox are 12-to-5 co-favorites. The Tigers (11-to-4) and Cardinals (3-to-1) are the slight underdogs.

CBSsports.com has an interesting breakdown of how to pitch Yasiel Puig. One thing I’ll caution against: Puig has made many adjustments in a short amount of time. Those graphs might have looked different on, say, August 1.

• Hyun-Jin Ryu is Japanese, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. He is also the Dodgers’ Game 3 starter, according to a graphic shown this morning on MLB Network (Mattingly hasn’t publicly chosen between Ryu and right-hander Ricky Nolasco).

• Will Leitch, writing for SportsOnEarth.com, explains why Cardinals fans might be considered the best in baseball.

FanGraphs.com explains Game 1 starter Joe Kelly‘s M.O.: “If you’re not giving up hits with men in scoring position, you won’t give up many runs either. This has basically been Kelly’s recipe for success in the big leagues: put them on and then leave them there.”

• Two of the best players in the National League West won’t be traded this winter.

• Playoff payrolls still matter, writes Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter.

• Stones Throw records, the label founded by Peanut Butter Wolf, is releasing a new Snoop Dogg track that doesn’t suck. But you don’t have to take my word for it:

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email