Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rolling Cubed

WIN--we keep pace, and go to 9-0 against the Angels in '10. Lackey gets the W, though he had his problems. Bard H. And Papelbon was lights-out in the 9th. I love that they threw that stat up about how he's the only dude to get 30 saves in his first 5 seasons. Only in Boston can one of the best ever who can be our closing horse for another decade is a guy thought of as done, basically a ghost, already gone. I can't figure it out. A Corvette in the garage and it gets a coupla dings and you wanna give it to 1 877 Kars 4 Kids? A good closer is hard to find. AJM, rebuttal please.

Three balls that were right at the top of the fence that fans touched. One was called a "fuckin' moron" by Lackey. And Don/Remy never know what's going on. Remy will make his call and then even super-slow replays can't make him change his mind.

Good to see Dave Roberts tonight. Despite the cancer, he seems his old happy self.

The seat is back! Or maybe just the one in row one at the bottom of the home plate aisle? Because there was a guy there tonight for a while. Yet no one sat there all last night. Something's going on in that spot and I'm gonna get to the bottom of it.

Great job by their 3Bman Callaspo tonight, especially on the pop-up he caught Mays style.

I don't think I'd ever seen, at any level including T-Ball, a player cross home plate with a run while holding a baseball until tonight. David Ortiz did it--dead ball on the bases-loaded hit by pitch, and Papi picked it up on his way home, carrying it across.

Key play of the game: the Nava diving catch. Nice job, guy. (The Angels giving us the tying and winning runs helped, too.)

Well, ok, since you asked..

1) Saves are massively overrated, lots of far-from-immortal relievers (Bobby Thigpen, KRod, Gagne, Trevor Hoffman, Randy Myers, John Franco) have put up gaudy single-season and/or career save #'s. So I'm not much impressed by the arbitrary 30 saves thing, and I don't think it's grounds for calling him one of the best ever.
2) He still leads the league in blown saves this season
3) He's had a couple of very ugly outings against the Yanks this year, blowing two games we should have won, which you could reasonably argue has a lot to do with the current playoff hole the Sox are in.
4) He clearly has declined over the past couple seasons, as evidenced by steady increases in his walk rate, home-run rate, and WHIP, and a decline in his K-rate. I'd call this the most important point...there's no way to spin these #'s for him in '09/'10 as anything but negative.

With that said, he looked fantastic tonight, even if it looked like the ump gave him a gift strike on that final pitch. His fastball was hopping, and even more importantly, he was actually throwing his splitter, and it was effective. He looked like the guy I remember from '07. Most of his outings this year have consisted solely of fastballs, too many of which have been been up and in the middle of the plate. I don't know what his problem has been, or why he's so infrequently gone to the splitter, but if he's regained command of that pitch, he might just be salvageable yet. Bard is still clearly the superior pitcher at this point, and should be considered the heir apparent to the closer role in the near future.
Was not using the 30 saves thing as the reason for calling him great. But I'm sure plenty of people who've been convinced that he's some kind of horrible pitcher now were like What???

Worse than awesome doesn't equal bad. I'll take the Papelbon of this year over any other closer we've ever had.
Seriously? Just off the top of my head, over the past 30 years I'd take Foulke in '04, Lowe in 2000, Gordon in '98, and the much-maligned Bob Stanley in '83 over this year's version of Papelbon, and it's not even close. And even though he never exceeded 29 saves, and pre-dated the modern closer era, what Dick Radatz did from '1962-64 dwarfs Papelbon's resume, even though he was massively overworked and inevitably blew out his arm as a result.

I think the role of the modern closer in general is overrated, but among current closers, I think Soria, Rivera, Bell, Soriano, Feliz, Wilson, and even Billy Wagner are all clearly better than Paps right now.

I mean, you watch the games and should see this as clearly as I do, but for most of his outings this year he just hasn't been that impressive. He's usually thrown mostly fastballs, usually with poor location, and has too few clean 1-2-3 innings, even when he gets credited with the save. Last night was the first time in a long while I can recall him looking dominant...I guess we'll see it's for real.
Pap has a better career ERA than any of those current closers you mentioned.

The closer role is lame the way it is--you need to get three outs before you give up a run or two, and have the pressure-guy mentality. Pap has this. Radatz would probably kick any of these guys' asses, and then pitch nine innings the next day, but it's a different world. And to me, Pap wins that world.
He also has a much higher ERA this year than all those guys, which is what we're talking about, not Paps back in his '07 glory days. But more importantly, why are you even looking at ERA for closers? It's a poor way to judge them...skewed by small sample size, and doesn't take into account inherited runners.

I'd trade Paps for Soria in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the Royals aren't dumb enough to make that trade.
Yes higher this year and he STILL has a lower career ERA.

He hardly ever has an inherited runner. And aren't runs what we're trying to prevent here? When you're up by not that much and need just three outs?
I don't know why I actually looked this up, because it really isn't important When comparing closers, but Soria's career ERA is barely a hair above Paps right now. The way they're each pitching at this point, Soria will pass him in the near there goes that argument.

Notice I haven't even brought up his season-ending implosion in the 2009 ALDS yet?
You mean the one inning in his career when he gave up a run in the post-season?

By the way, that implosion is similar in my mind the Grafanino error. It was a deal where were we down 2-0 anyway, it's not like we were up 2-0 and he blew game 5. Just sprayin.
"I'll take the Papelbon of this year over any other closer we've ever had."

Give me Calvin Schiraldi 1986 FTW! Best Microleague Baseball closer of all time!
Yeah, it's not like the Sox have ever come back from an 0-2 ALDS hole or anything* It's appropriate that we now have a Calvin Schiraldi reference in this thread, since Paps was doing his best Schiraldi imitation with that playoff implosion. The '06 Chisox nearly ran the table in October and steamrolled their way to a Championship; by contrast the '09 Angels crapped the bed in the next round. I think the Sox had a great chance to come back and win the next two games, and they would have at least had a puncher's chance against the Yanks in the ALCS. Alas, we'll never know...

But, of course, I digress. Now that the twins have been put to sleep, it's time for my closing arguments:

- It has been demonstrated beyond dispute that Paps has been in decline for two years by citing his deteriorating K, BB, and HR rates, WHIP, and spike in his blown saves.
- It has been noted that there are a minimum of 7 current closers who are outperforming him to varying degrees this season, which means he can no longer go by the description "elite closer".
- There is a younger, better reliever on the team who has also clearly outperformed him this year.
- While I'd like to believe that his performance last night represents a return to vintage form, we need to see more evidence.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the prosecution rests.

The whole Paps debate is going to come to an end in about 15 months anyway, when the Sox inevitably let him walk as a free agent. I imagine the conversation will go something like this:

Paps: "I figure I'm an elite closer, so I expect to get Mariano Money...say, $80mm for five years"

Theo: "Bwa-hahahahahahahaha!!!! That's a good one, Paps. We were actually thinking of having you set-up for Bard next season..."

John Henry: "Sorry I'm late, guys, I had a few commodity trades to unwind. So, is this the part where I offer you arbitration in order to get two draft picks, or should I just skip ahead to wishing you well closing out low-pressure games in the NL Central?"

* Snarky, gratuitous, obvious throw-away comment not meant to distract from my main argument.

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