Carter Capps is an obscure relief pitcher for the Miami Marlins but he became a little less obscure after Monday night, when video of his strange delivery made the rounds. Called up from Triple-A, he made his first major league appearance of 2015 and unveiled a pitching motion similar to Jordan Walden's of the St. Louis Cardinals. Capps uses a little hop step as he pushes off the pitching rubber, meaning he's well in front of the rubber when he releases the ball. Here's a look at the delivery. Somehow, he throws in the upper 90s doing that.
Capps came up with the Seattle Mariners and touched 100 mph as a rookie call-up in 2012. But he struggled in 2013 with a 5.73 ERA and was sent to the Marlins for Logan Morrison after the season. Here he is pitching with the Mariners in 2013, without the same exaggerated skip. His motion last April with the Marlins and then in September still looked the same as in Seattle.
But this year the hop looks a little more pronounced. In fact, earlier in the week in Triple-A, an umpire ruled the delivery illegal. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs has a good breakdown of Capps' delivery and writes that the Marlins have received assurance that it is, indeed, legal.
Even then, the explanation is a little strange since it seems to reside in the suggestion that it's legal as long as Capps doesn't get too elevated in his hop. Cameron writes:
So, according to Capps, jumping forward is okay, but jumping up is not. The league clearly knows their rulebook a lot better than I do, though I will admit that I was unable to find anything in the rules that would be the basis for that conclusion. That doesn't mean it isn't in there. Perhaps there is an addendum to the delivery rule that simply didn't make its way online. This isn't an area where I'm going to claim to have any kind of insight, because I'm not a rules junkie, and I've never umpired. If MLB says it is legal, then it's legal.
Rule 8.01 (a) reads:
The Windup Position. The pitcher shall stand facing the batter, his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher's plate and the other foot free. From this position any natural movement associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter commits him to the pitch without interruption or alteration. He shall not raise either foot from the ground, except that in his actual delivery of the ball to the batter, he may take one step backward, and one step forward with his free foot.
So, legal pitch? I guess so, although something about it seems unfair. Satchel Paige famously had a "hesitation pitch," in which he would stop in mid-delivery, that was outlawed in the majors. Apparently, Oliver Perez, then with the Pittsburgh Pirates, got called for an illegal delivery in August of 2004, due to a double-clutch in his windup. I couldn't find video of that or a similar delivery, but it sounds like he must have had some sort of hesitation, as well.
For now, Capps' delivery is fair game. Even if it gives him some sort of advantage with a release point closer to home plate, I don't think it's a motion we're going to see pitchers suddenly trying.