If you were to look at Chris Capuano and Chris Young, on the surface it would seem that the two couldn't be more different.
One (Capuano) is 6'2", 225 and throws lefty. The other (Young) is 6'10", 280 and throws righty. However, that's where the differences end and the similarities begin.
Capuano and Young are both former All-Stars coming off injuries. Capuano is back from his second Tommy John surgery, while Young missed almost all of last season with a shoulder strain, coming after he had arthroscopic surgery to repair tears in his labrum the season before.
Both men rely on guile and pitching know-how to get hitters out as opposed to trying to throw the ball past them. It doesn't hurt that Capuano (Duke) and Young (Princeton) both attended top-tier schools and are considered to be very cerebral on the mound.
Of course, the biggest, and perhaps most important, similarity of all is that both pitchers will play key roles in determining how the 2011 New York Mets season transpires.
It's not set in stone yet, but Capuano and Young are the odds on favorites to fill the last two spots in the Mets rotation this season, behind Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey and Jon Niese.
With the Mets' offseason moves, or lack thereof, coming under heavy scrutiny, the team is relying on these two reclamation projects to provide a much-needed boost to the starting rotation.
New York has been burned in the past by relying too heavily on players that weren't fit to carry the burden, but Capuano and Young seem different, for several reasons.
While neither pitcher will light the world on fire, both have shown a knack for having success with limited resources.
When healthy, Capuano is an innings-eater who will likely hover around a league average ERA+ (100). While he has a tendency to allow a few more baserunners than you'd like, his K/9 rate isn't awful and he's, historically, been able to limit the damage.
Before he ran into his recent history of shoulder trouble, Young put up numbers befitting of one of the top pitchers in the National League. His ERA+ was consistently over 100, until his injury plagued 2008-2010 seasons, and his K/9 rate stayed above eight.
Perhaps the most promising aspect of both pitchers is how they finished off last season.
Granted, it can be folly to try and extrapolate a pitcher's performance based off several September starts, when many teams are playing out the stretch and trying out the players they've promoted when rosters expand.
That being said, both Capuano and Young looked very good in limited opportunities.
In six September starts, Capuano fashioned a 2.91 ERA, allowing only 31 hits in 34 innings. By comparison, in three September starts, Young compiled a 1.29 ERA, with only nine hits allowed in 14 innings.
Judging both pitchers' workloads wouldn't be a fair exercise as they were both returning to starting games and weren't being pushed, for good reason, by their respective managers. However, the fact that both men were surprisingly effective in their respective returns could bode well for the Mets.
Keep in mind, as the projected fourth and fifth starters, Capuano and Young don't need to be saviors for this staff. Rather, they just need to keep the team in games that they start, something both have shown the ability to do in the past.
Of course, replacing last year's de facto fourth and fifth starters, John Maine and Oliver Perez, shouldn't be that difficult of a task. So long as Capuano and Young don't get injured in April and/or pitch so poorly that they are sent down, only to refuse to accept a minor league assignment, they'll have no problem out-pitching the aforementioned Maine and Perez.
One thing that should serve to help both pitchers is the Mets' home ballpark, Citi Field. With its spacious outfield and towering wall in left field, Citi is quickly proving to be quite the pitcher's paradise.
While Capuano's splits aren't as pronounced, Young is a predominantly fly ball pitcher, whose success in his former home, Petco Park (his career home ERA is over half a run better than on the road), could translate favorably to his new home in Flushing.
Either way, with two pitchers who rely more heavily on hitters putting the ball in play, it seems pitching in the cavernous confines of Citi could only help their fortunes.
The 2011 Mets are going to need a whole lot of help from a whole lot of unexpected sources. Capuano and Young, if they can show glimpses of past success, will go a long way toward providing that help.
Whether or not the rest of the team follows suit is anyone's guess, but, if these two return to form, it'd be ludi-Chris to count them out.
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