Jonathan Papelbon — Closer to the End?


I must start this post by saying that it pains me to be writing it. I am weeping a little bit — actually a lot of bit — and my self loathing has rarely been higher. It’s made worse by the fact that I don’t usually do this — I tend to hang on to veteran players for too long if anything. I like the Shaq trade, and Mike Lowell can hang around forever. But I think it’s time for Jonathan Papelbon to go. It hurts just saying that.

Few Red Sox have had a more dramatic impact on Boston’s recent success. Papelbon was on the mound to end the 2007 World Series, and has 7 postseason saves while maintaining a 1.00 ERA for the Red Sox. Even with the hype that he gets, he has been underappreciated. If he records one more save this year, he’ll be the first pitcher ever to record 30+ saves in his first 5 years in the league. Here are his numbers:

2006 — .92 ERA, 35 saves

2007 — 1.85 ERA, 37 saves

2008 — 2.34 ERA, 41 saves

2009 — 1.85 ERA, 38 saves

2010 — 3.26 ERA, 29 saves (thus far)

The reason I’m saying we have to let him go is simple — he’s a closer who has started to blow more games than he should. Papelbon blew it for us in the playoffs last year, and he’s blown 6 saves already this year. Six blown saves is not a huge number by any measure, but it certainly isn’t ideal — especially as the Red Sox find themselves in a very tight wild card race.

From a pitching standpoint, this is all very frustrating as Papelbon still consistently hits 98 mph on the radar gun when he needs to. His splitter has come a long way, to the point of possibly being the best in baseball. But other than that, he doesn’t have much — and he’s leaving his fastball up. If it’s up and going that fast, it gets out of the park quickly. Lots of pitchers, especially power pitchers, struggle with this. Papelbon has been no exception. He needs to learn to keep the ball down, or he’s toast.

The worst (or best part) is this — we have another reliever in Daniel Baird who can throw 98+ mph and has a 1.89 ERA. I think Baird is our closer of the future, although he’s not half as fun as Papelbon to watch. It gets even easier to get rid of Papelbon knowing that his trade value is still extremely high — we could pick up another great arm or bat for him easily.

If I was Theo Epstein, as tough as it would be, I’d be looking to deal Papelbon this offseason if a good opportunity presents itself. As for this year, I’d keep him as the closer — you don’t want Terry Francona to lose him mentally by demoting him to middle relief. Throw Baird in to close out some games, but make it clear Papelbon is still the closer. He is sure fun as hell to watch — and one of my favorite players on the Red Sox.



Filed under Baseball

9 responses to “Jonathan Papelbon — Closer to the End?

  1. Kevin Youkillis

    Back when the Phillies were talking non stop about trading Jason Werth(because he likes to have sex with Mrs. Utley) I thought a Papelbon for Werth trade would have been great for both teams.

    • Hmmm…..honestly I don’t know a ton or have strong opinions about Werth. Who cares about the Phillies? It’s Saturday night and I’m running out the door to see Step Up 3D so I’ll do some more research on this and get back to you later.

  2. j-bone

    what is papelbons contract like. i know werth is a free agent coming this year so I am not sure if the red sox would trade someone who might walk. If that were to happen Werth would be making a living off of two very homer friendly parks.

    I know Bard throws hard but I am not so sold on him, I know I only really see him against the Yankees but he is not the type of player then when he comes in that I am thinking oh shit we have no chance of scoring. If I remember correctly the Yankees have had some pretty good success against him.

  3. A. Rab Money

    I thought this was a contract year for Paps so dealing him in the offseason would not be a option. If thats what you’re thinking the sox need to get a deal for him before the season is up or they will get nothing in return. I do agree that his best days are behind him, but he does still have value, however if his contract is up, and the sox do not deal him in the next few weeks, they will likely not sign him and then have gotten nothing in return.

    • I don’t think they’ll deal him in the next few weeks, and I know Theo is smarter than to not get anything for him. So I guess maybe they’ll resign him to a cheaper, short term deal and use him less exclusively as a closer?

  4. A. Rab Money

    His contract is up this year, so if the sox want to use him to trade they will have to re-sign him. The only problem with what you said about signing him to a lesser deal is if his stock is still as high as you’re claiming then a cheaper deal might not be enough to bring him back if other teams are after him. I think you make the move now otherwise they will not resign him at the end of the season.

  5. Pingback: Patriots Win a Sketchy One, Rookie Tight Ends Shine « howiGit's Blog

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