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   1. Textbook Editor Posted: May 19, 2010 at 07:31 AM (#3536646)
Sorry, I'm in the "Sell" camp now. He's not as maddening as Dice-K to watch pitch, but the WHIP has been creeping upwards for 3 years now and is almost 0.4 higher than the 2006/2007 version.

Look, I realize Papelbon v2007 is not walking back through that door, but the upside of Papelbon v2010 I don't think is as high as the upside of Bard v2010, and now that we're in this hole, we have to start throwing the ball down the field a bit--take some risks--to come back... One of the "high risk/high reward" upside plays--for me--is to flip/flop Bard and Papelbon, or just deal Papelbon and go with Bard if you think Paps' ego can't take a relegation to the 8th inning.

If there's a way to team-close, I'd be for that as an alternative--I just don't want all "save" situations going to Papelbon this year.

And believe me, I do realize--looking at stats, etc. this makes me seem nuts. But I've watched Papelbon close games the last 1+ years, and he's slowly losing his specialness; teams have figured him out; the downward slide has already commenced--it's just a matter of when we decide to get off now.
   2. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: May 19, 2010 at 11:30 AM (#3536658)
I think you know my opinion. Sell him while he has value to some sucker. So, so, SOOO many walks. And losing velocity. And just...ugh. Sell. Sell him.

Look, obviously I think he's still good at baseball. The "worst player in baseball" schtick is just exaggeration. But I strongly, strongly believe that he is well past his sell-by date, and it's only a matter of time before it becomes very clear that he's completely gone bad. Dump him to an NL contender for a mid-level prospect or two.
   3. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: May 19, 2010 at 11:32 AM (#3536659)
And again, no, his fastball velocity is NOT the same. He has completely lost the top end off of his fastball since 2007.
   4. TomH Posted: May 19, 2010 at 11:59 AM (#3536662)
since Apr 09, Paps has avg'd 3.4 BB per 9. Is that too high for a stud reliever? You guys sound as if he's turned into Mark Clear (for those with long memories)!

Would you prefer Carlos Marmol, he of the 2.45 ERA since he went to the pen, accompanied by 5.5 BB per 9?

Will Paps be the Best Closer Ever? Naah. Is he Highly Useful to a playoff team? Yup.
   5. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 19, 2010 at 12:07 PM (#3536668)
Dump him to an NL contender for a mid-level prospect or two.


I'm sorry but this is insanity. No, he's not 2007 Papelbon but he is still better than most. If the Sox completely drop out of the race then he's a chip you can get a lot for but there is absolutely no reason to rush him off. He actually makes the Red Sox better and I don't think making Bard the closer is going to appreciably change things for 2010. This seems like a good time to point out that Monday was his first blown save of the year.

Look, no one is saying he is what he was but how many players are hurting the Red Sox more than he is right now? 20? 21? Youk, Pedroia, Drew, Bard and I guess there is a case for Delcarmen and Scutaro...who else has been better for the 2010 Red Sox? And you want to deal this guy for the equivalent of Michael Bowden and maybe Brandon Moss if the trading partner is willing to throw him in? Great, so the Red Sox role out Daniel Bard as closer with Hideki Okajima (who has legitimately been terrible) and Ramon Ramirez or Manny Delcarmen as their primary set up men? THIS is the plan?

My guess is he won't be worth whatever contract he signs after 2011 but pushing him out the door is foolish. The 2010 and 2011 Red Sox are likely much better with Jonathan Papeblon than without him.
   6. TomH Posted: May 19, 2010 at 12:16 PM (#3536670)
Oh, and as to making Bard the closer:
D Bard, career BB/9: 3.9.
   7. Darren Posted: May 19, 2010 at 12:18 PM (#3536673)
Who's a better closer than Papelbon right now? Mariano and....? Soria probably. Maybe Bell and Broxton? I can't think of many more candidates.

I'd be a lot more concerned about Papelbon if it weren't for the 10-ish appearances right before that Yankees game. He had finally started throwing the splitter and slider. He was also getting a lot of swings and misses on those and his fastball.
   8. Darren Posted: May 19, 2010 at 12:23 PM (#3536678)
Wait a minute, they won last night? And Pap got the save? That's what I get for refusing to watch! (Probably for the best, I wouldn't have been able to take the 9th.)
   9. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: May 19, 2010 at 12:25 PM (#3536679)
Why would you trade any above average relievers from that pen right now?
   10. Nasty Nate Posted: May 19, 2010 at 01:22 PM (#3536701)
I'm sorry but this is insanity.


the 'papelbon is not good/is injured etc' insanity comes out for about 2 days after he lets up some runs, and then is curiously silent while he puts up a sub-2 ERA for the next 2 months.
   11. Schilling's Sprained Ankiel Posted: May 19, 2010 at 01:41 PM (#3536726)
Sort of like the "Is Mariano done?" thing that seems to happen at the beginning of the last few seasons. Then it goes away for a long time. I realize there are differences between the two as pitchers, but the crack in the shut down reliever seems to engender the same result across teams (red sox fans participate, and maybe even generate the Mariano conversations out of hope, of course, instead of fear.)
   12. tfbg9 Posted: May 19, 2010 at 03:15 PM (#3536830)
He has completely lost the top end off of his fastball since 2007.


Yep. And he seems to sit at a slightly lower rate, 93-94 instead of 94-95, without the aforementioned occasional 97-98
"oomph" offerings. Unless this is just a radar gun thing, but I don't think so.

His first swinging strike to Winn last night was at 91...
   13. John DiFool2 Posted: May 19, 2010 at 03:59 PM (#3536891)
Would you prefer Carlos Marmol, he of the 2.45 ERA since he went to the pen, accompanied by 5.5 BB per 9?


If it's accompanied by 18 K/9, yes, I would. Paps' K/9 has plummeted all the way to 6.8. Yes, those numbers should move towards each other as the season goes on, but still this is more than some temporary blip on the radar-he obviously isn't the same pitcher.

the 'papelbon is not good/is injured etc' insanity comes out for about 2 days after he lets up some runs, and then is curiously silent while he puts up a sub-2 ERA for the next 2 months.


In early '07, when he had 4.5 BB/9 thru the 1st 20 innings, he also had 12.5 K/9, which was evidence that he still had his stuff (and his ERA was still below 2). If his current rates in those categories (and HR/9 too, which is around 1.4) don't alarm you, I don't know what else to say.

Unless this is just a radar gun thing, but I don't think so.


Nope-Bard routinely is 3-5 MPH faster on the same gun.
   14. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 19, 2010 at 04:06 PM (#3536900)
In early '07, when he had 4.5 BB/9 thru the 1st 20 innings, he also had 12.5 K/9, which was evidence that he still had his stuff (and his ERA was still below 2). If his current rates in those categories (and HR/9 too, which is around 1.4) don't alarm you, I don't know what else to say.
But you just said that a 20 inning sample should be heavily regressed! We're not supposed to get alarmed by 20 inning samples of anything - if there's some observation that you can specify that you believe should lead us to question the conclusions we can draw from the numbers, that's obviously useful, but the numbers left to themselves simply aren't. Twenty innings.

I watch Papelbon this year, and he's had the best splitter I've seen since 2007, combined with his 2009 fastball (that is, his worst fastball by command, but still a very good fastball). I think he's going to take a little bit of adjustment to get this new version of himself together, but in the end he'll be one of the best relievers in baseball. I'm happy to put money on this.
   15. John DiFool2 Posted: May 19, 2010 at 05:55 PM (#3537032)
I said no such thing. I said that it is likely that he will drift upward towards his career K/9-but he may not ever be the same strikeout pitcher ever again. At what point do you acknowledge that a 3-2 K-W ratio is worrisome? 30 innings? 50 innings? I notice you didn't even address the provable drop in his fastball readings-that doesn't bug you? And if that splitter is so good, why didn't he throw it during the 2 HR meltdown the other night? It seems his offspeed stuff comes and goes almost at random it seems, as it has for last 2+ seasons.

If I had time, I'd mention something about signature significance, but thehellwithit.
   16. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 19, 2010 at 06:08 PM (#3537045)
At what point do you acknowledge that a 3-2 K-W ratio is worrisome? 30 innings? 50 innings? I notice you didn't even address the provable drop in his fastball readings-that doesn't bug you? And if that splitter is so good, why didn't he throw it during the 2 HR meltdown the other night? It seems his offspeed stuff comes and goes almost at random it seems, as it has for last 2+ seasons.


I think part of the problem is there seems to be a subset of fans who feel that he is expendable when the reality is that even 80% of the 2007 Jonathan Papelbon is still very very good.

As for the off speed stuff it has been excellent and consistent all year. This is what made Monday night so startling.
   17. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 19, 2010 at 07:03 PM (#3537101)
I notice you didn't even address the provable drop in his fastball readings-that doesn't bug you
It's tiny, and it didn't happen this year, it happened after 2008. Papelbon struck out tons of guys last year with the same fastball, but without the splitter.
At what point do you acknowledge that a 3-2 K-W ratio is worrisome? 30 innings? 50 innings?
The fact that relievers don't throw many innings is annoying, but we don't get to throw statistics out the window because of it. We have to use our observation if we want to say much of anything about a relief pitcher.

Papelbon's preseason ZiPS projection: 2.85 ERA, 10.6 K/9
Papelbon's rest-of-season ZiPS projection: 3.18 ERA, 10.0 K/9

This isn't a debate where the numbers should be a significant factor. I'm willing to acknowledge that there might be something wrong that can't be concluded from the numbers, and I think the discussion should be had around what we know about Papelbon that could allow us to question the projections. But citing the numbers doesn't make much sense - they're only useful, at this point, as reflective of underlying problems that one can observe and describe.
   18. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: May 19, 2010 at 07:07 PM (#3537105)
Dump him to an NL contender for a mid-level prospect or two.


I'll echo this as utter, complete insanity.

he 'papelbon is not good/is injured etc' insanity comes out for about 2 days after he lets up some runs, and then is curiously silent while he puts up a sub-2 ERA for the next 2 months.


And this as gospel. I expected better from BTF posters than "OMG two lousy outings in a row! Trade him before his next time out!!! AAAAAAAAAA."

The people who have been slagging David Ortiz are now turning to Papelbon. You guys just want something to worry about.
   19. Nasty Nate Posted: May 19, 2010 at 07:13 PM (#3537111)
I expected better from BTF posters than "OMG two lousy outings in a row! Trade him before his next time out!!! AAAAAAAAAA."

The people who have been slagging David Ortiz are now turning to Papelbon. You guys just want something to worry about.


Last year the out-there theory was that Papelbon was pitching thru a substantial arm injury. I would guess now that no one still clings to that view of 2009.
   20. Darren Posted: May 19, 2010 at 07:16 PM (#3537115)
We should all remember that Papelbon still has a better career through this age than the greatest closer ever!
   21. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 19, 2010 at 07:35 PM (#3537136)
I'm clearly getting more heated about this debate than I should. The problem is two-fold:

1) I'm a big Papelbon fan. I think he's tons of fun, and I want him to do well. People have been shitting all over him for a year, even though he's been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball over that time. When he goes, you're all gonna miss him. (Plus he's going to be replaced by some Lucchino-approved automaton who plays the game the right way and wants to go up there and help the club out.)

2) I'm weirdly invested in a particular understanding of baseball statistics. Lots and lots of interesting baseball questions are not particularly amenable to statistical analysis for sampling reasons. It's been shown, for instance, that without a huge sample, a right-handed player's platoon split numbers are not predictive of his future platoon splits. This doesn't mean all RHBs have the same platoon splits - that's crazy - rather, it means that 150 PA a year vs. LHP don't make up a sufficient sample to measure RHB platoon variation. The only way to get at RHB platoon numbers, with only a few exceptions, is observation - watch the guy and determine whether he's got a peculiar platoon split, and why. Relief pitching is another one of these areas - relief pitchers are close to impossible to project because they throw so few innings, but real changes in ability happen all the time. So if you want to analyze a relief pitcher in season, you can't turn to statistics, you need to turn to observation.
   22. John DiFool2 Posted: May 20, 2010 at 12:54 AM (#3537444)
Okay, I'll throw this one out there, even tho it probably isn't worth it for the time I am about to spend to research it:

Worst ~20 inning stretches of Pap's career (as a closer) in terms of K-W, per year:

2006: Jun 26-Aug 6: 23-7, 3.2:1
2007: Apr 18-Jun 12: 28-10, 2.8:1
2008: May 9-Jul 4: 26-6, 4.3:1
2009: Apr 11-May 9: 22-11, 2:1
2010, as noted, 1st game to now: 1.5:1

Sure, small sample size flukes may not be repeatable; yes, the correlation between ability and the stats is not perfect at small samples, and remains so (less so) at larger ones. But, past some point, deviations from past performance become significant-signature significance. I chose K-W because that's the one stat combination which is the most indicative of ability (I'm ignoring the 14 hits in 20 innings precisely because that is the one number most likely to be insignificant). Fact remains he has never, as a closer for 5 years now, had this poor control combined with a low (for him) K rate. And if you go and look at his pitch location graphs it's not hard to make the connection between his crap command (and lower velocity) this year and the results.

As for the implication that I (and others) are "insane" to make note of these trends, and just want an excuse to get rid of him, get bent. As for the implication that he'll immediately snap back to his 06-08 form, nothing to see here, move along, well as a Sox I hope it happens, but I doubt it. Sure, things could be worse, and we could be stuck with the corpse of Trevor Hoffman, but that's a distracting straw man.
   23. Hugh Jorgan Posted: May 20, 2010 at 01:26 AM (#3537473)
Wait a minute, they won last night? And Pap got the save?

Apparently they got a couple of runs off some hack that NY threw out there...

Part of the issue with Paps is emotional. 2007 Paps was the king of the 11 pitch, easy out save...and you just KNEW he get it done. 2009 and 2010 version of Paps is the leave 2 runners on, 31 pitch, one guy with an 11 pitch AB, but still get the job done is the most heart stopping fashion. Albeit, last night Scutaro had alot to answer for. He owes both the starter and closer an apology for botching 2 very easy plays.
Look the team is good, they are just not all playing well at the same time. If they can get to June above .500, surely there is an 11-3 run in this team in June which should set them on their way. Tampa can't be caught, NY however has some issues of aging and injuries which will be interesting to see how that plays out through July and August.
   24. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: May 20, 2010 at 02:09 AM (#3537541)
Is Bard a better reliever today than is Papelbon? I think a compelling case towards this can be made. But why can't Bard be a true "ace reliever", helping his team in the highest leverage situations that don't happen in the ninth, while not changing any of their roles? If Fly's observation is to be believed, they would only get a midlevel prospect for him at this time. Why not hold onto your B+ closer and your A setup guy and see what happens, instead of jettisoning that B+ closer? Where would the setup innings come from in that situation? Are we really making the case that Papelbon, right now, is worse than Okajima, MDC, and the rest?
   25. Darren Posted: May 20, 2010 at 02:32 AM (#3537558)
He could be used that way but hardly anyone uses a reliever that way. For the most part, closers get the highest leverage and setup men the 2nd.
   26. Chip Posted: May 20, 2010 at 02:58 AM (#3537564)
Last year the out-there theory was that Papelbon was pitching thru a substantial arm injury. I would guess now that no one still clings to that view of 2009.


There was media coverage last year of his arm slot change to lessen the strain on his shoulder. The over-reliance on fastballs was a corollary to this: the off-speed pitches put more stress on his arm, and didn't seem to have the same bite out of that arm slot. But he hasn't gone back to his pre-should problems motion, has he, even as he has tried to re-introduce the breaking pitches into his reportoire? Maybe that explains his hesitancy to use them when push comes to shove against someone like A-Rod last night.
   27. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: May 20, 2010 at 03:19 AM (#3537572)
Last year the out-there theory was that Papelbon was pitching thru a substantial arm injury. I would guess now that no one still clings to that view of 2009.

How could you NOT cling to that view? It's clearly true.
   28. Nasty Nate Posted: May 20, 2010 at 03:34 AM (#3537578)
haha you crack me up
   29. Norcan Posted: May 20, 2010 at 04:33 AM (#3537595)
His release point looks different. He's still got that classic, fluid arm stroke but it looks like he's throwing from underneath his shoulder, kind of like how Smoltz threw with the Red Sox. You're not going to get good extension throwing that way. Maybe it's not that but whatever it is, he's not getting the same amount of swings and misses on his fastball as when he was utterly dominant. That was the hallmark of his dominance, great fastball command and life to the corners and up in the zone, which blew great hitters away easily.
   30. The District Attorney Posted: May 20, 2010 at 04:46 AM (#3537601)
Is Jonathan Papelbon still a good closer?
The case that Papelbon sucks...
Obviously, if the argument is whether Papelbon should be traded in exchange for a player/players of similar worth, these quotes represent strawmen.
   31. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: May 20, 2010 at 05:07 AM (#3537605)
Obviously, if the argument is whether Papelbon should be traded in exchange for a player/players of similar worth, these quotes represent strawmen.


Right, they're different arguments.

Papelbon is still a good closer. I think the stats support that, especially if you compare him to other closers throughout the league. Perhaps, the stats also say he is trending in the wrong direction and won't be good before the year's over. That's a lot of projection, and I think it's basically guesswork to say he's going to be bad. If he remains as the pitcher he is or has been in the beginning of the season, he's definitely a useful player on a contender.

That said, the Sox might not be a contender this year, although the Yanks are falling back to the pack a bit. But it's possible that the Sox, at a certain point, could be thinking more about 2011 and beyond. In that case, Papelbon's name should be in all kinds of trade rumors. Bard is the heir apparent. Papelbon is going to test free agency soon and wants a big contract. Bullpens are not the hardest things to construct. So, yeah, I can see why you'd want him to be traded.
   32. Hugh Jorgan Posted: May 20, 2010 at 06:19 AM (#3537622)
Bullpens are not the hardest things to construct.

That's just it isn't it? There is still a somewhat of a black art to getting this right and sometimes you just don't really know. We can all see from the stats that he is still more effective than most closers, however if the club isn't contending and he's had a pretty good season, I say sell "high" and try to get something nice in return.
   33. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: May 20, 2010 at 06:19 AM (#3537623)
In your solo OOTP league you can almost certainly trade Paps for Soria and Ka'aihue, and probably Gordon and Callaspo if you throw in an 18 year old high-ceiling MR prospect.

That, I think, is where the frustration comes in with this guy. I'm ready to cut bait on him too, but only if you can get value for him. Which, in MLB, you cannot. So he's the Red Sox closer. And he's pretty damned good at that.
   34. Dale Sams Posted: May 20, 2010 at 11:47 AM (#3537641)
Bullpens are not the hardest things to construct.


Well, no...now putting together a good one...
   35. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 20, 2010 at 12:06 PM (#3537645)
Is Jonathan Papelbon still a good closer?
...
The case that Papelbon sucks...


Obviously, if the argument is whether Papelbon should be traded in exchange for a player/players of similar worth, these quotes represent strawmen.
A couple things. First, trading a player for something of similar value isn't something most anyone opposes on principle - sounds like a fair trade! and as Zuvella says, trading Papelbon is entirely a question of the Red Sox contending status.

The issue I was trying to get at is how good Papelbon is. On one extreme, we have Fly arguing that Papelbon is in fact so bad that the Red Sox should cut bait now because they can't expect quality going forward. Toward the middle we have JDF, arguing that Papelbon has changed in some important way, such that he's now significantly worse than he has ever been. Probably someone out there thinks Papelbon is around as good as he was in 2009 - a step up from JDF's evaluation, as I read it. Next you've got me, who thinks that Papelbon isn't as good as he was in 2007, but should, with his improved breaking stuff, be better than he was last year. I think I represent the top end here.

I guess you could say I poisoned the well on debate by characterizing opposition as people who think that Papelbon sucks - though that was the tenor of the game thread - but I was just trying to be light there. I've been accused of straw-manning a couple times in this thread, but I really don't see it.
   36. RollingWave Posted: May 20, 2010 at 12:28 PM (#3537649)
A. we're almost 1/3 of the way through the season, at this point you have to at least take samples on things like K/BB with some modest amount of seriousness. and Papelbon's K rate drop is quiet significant. even if we assume that is partially fluke.

B. If the Red Sox want to make the playoffs, let alone go anywhere in the playoffs, they need a good Papelbon, so at this point they cetainly will need to just cross their finger and pray that the dramatic change in K/BB value so far is more luck than decline of skills. After all, the Yankees are currently badly banged up , with three of their starters (two of them up the middle guys no less) out of commission for awhile at least . and just about the whole team banged up (of their 9 guys to open the year, only Gardner have not have some sort of injury scare). so the next 6 week is basically the moment of truth for these teams.

C. If say.. worse case comes to reality... that the Red Sox not only couldn't take any advantage of the Yankees' current sitaution, and instead got pulled 10+ games out by July, and Papelbon's K/BB continue to look pedestrian. then you probably need to start thinking about dumping him on some idiot GM like Ed Wade.
   37. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 20, 2010 at 12:28 PM (#3537650)
I was one of the people questioning his health last year but I find myself closer to Matt's viewpoint now than anything else. The Sox have an elite player locked in for the next two seasons and given the expectation they have of contending those two seasons there is no particular motivation to push him out the door. If the Sox fall out of the race this year then yeah, they should see what they can get but for now he remains one of the top five closers in the game (I think that's underselling him) and I would expect his BB and K rates to improve as the year goes on, much like they did last year.
   38. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 20, 2010 at 12:46 PM (#3537656)
at this point you have to at least take samples on things like K/BB with some modest amount of seriousness. and Papelbon's K rate drop is quiet significant.
Papelbon's projected rest-of-season K/BB (ZiPS) is 10.0/2.8. The numbers don't look significant to me, and they don't look significant to the projection engines.

EDIT: To respond to JDF's #22, it looks to me like the big drop isn't from 2009 to 2010, but from pre-2009 to 2009. Beginning with last season, Papelbon doesn't have the same kind of fastball command he had as his peakety-peak, and this is a good demonstration of that. The thing is, though, Papelbon was pretty great last year, even if that huge drop in K/BB rate had signature significance. I don't see much, in that chart, to make me worried that Papelbon is significantly worse than he was in 2009 - when, again, he was pretty great.
   39. John DiFool2 Posted: May 20, 2010 at 01:28 PM (#3537680)
Papelbon's projected rest-of-season K/BB (ZiPS) is 10.0/2.8. The numbers don't look significant to me, and they don't look significant to the projection engines.


Projection systems are notoriously conservative. Would any projection system have caught say Roberto Alomar's sudden decline? Thus they are of limited significance in dealing with possible changed circumstances.
   40. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: May 20, 2010 at 01:41 PM (#3537695)
we're almost 1/3 of the way through the season

Actually FWIW, we're barely 1/4 of the way through the season.
   41. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 20, 2010 at 01:48 PM (#3537707)
Projection systems are notoriously conservative. Would any projection system have caught say Roberto Alomar's sudden decline? Thus they are of limited significance in dealing with possible changed circumstances.
I agree with this. (Well, except for the "notoriously conservative" part, in some readings.) It is certainly the case that projection systems are of limited use in dealing with possible changed circumstances. Let me clarify:

If Papelbon's circumstances have changed, this will not show up in the projection systems. This is not, however, because of some correctable flaw in projection systems - it is not the case that we could build a better system that had a "signature significance for K/BB rate drops" factor. This is a limit of statistical analysis of baseball itself. Given the samples we're working with, we cannot conclude that every time a player has a start as slow as Roberto Alomar's 2002, that he has declined like Roberto Alomar. The numbers alone simply do not allow us to draw such conclusions responsibly. The projection systems are doing the best they can do, with the limitation that they can only use the numbers and samples that exist. Projection systems are conservative because the only responsible way to do purely statistical analysis is conservatively.

If we want to notice real changes in ability in anything resembling real time, we can't use the numbers, we have to use our observation.

If we want to draw conclusions just from Papelbon's numbers, we have to recognize that the best universalizable analysis of the numbers produces his rest-of-season projection, which makes him one of the handful of the best closers in baseball. If we want to talk about changed circumstances, we're moving out of the realm of numbers into the realm of observation.
   42. tfbg9 Posted: May 20, 2010 at 03:39 PM (#3537849)
the realm of observation


He doesn't get nearly as many swings and misses as he used to, period. Here's pitches in the zone, for instance:

Z-Contact% for 2007: 75.5%, 2008: 82.3%, 2009: 83.1% 2010: 88.6%

-this leads to longer AB's. And more pitches = more chances to throw non-strikes, which = more BB's. And of course, less K's and more hits.

The data back up my observations: He doesn't throw as hard, nor with as much "late life". His split may be on the mend. He'll need it.

I like Bard a lot, but his fastball seems a bit straight to me. We'll see.

edit: clarity
   43. SoSH U at work Posted: May 20, 2010 at 06:45 PM (#3538047)
Off the subject of Papelbon, but worth noting in the activest ST thread:

BOSTON -- Raising the question of who will catch Daisuke Matsuzaka next elicited a strong reaction from catcher Jason Varitek.

Asked Wednesday night whether the Sox had approached him about catching Matsuzaka after the Japanese right-hander was rocked Monday for the third time with Victor Martinez behind the plate, Varitek said, “No, why?’’

When it was pointed out that Matsuzaka’s only good outing -- 7 innings, 1 run, 0 walks, 9 whiffs -- had come with Varitek behind the plate, the catcher flared.

“I think you’re making it more than it is,’’ he said. “Everybody’s creating all sorts of stories in all different directions.

“Let our guys play.’’


I hate the "C", but that's some nice captainly behavior right there. This backup role is really suiting him well.
   44. TomH Posted: May 20, 2010 at 07:10 PM (#3538080)
Projection systems are notoriously conservative. Would any projection system have caught say Roberto Alomar's sudden decline? Thus they are of limited significance in dealing with possible changed circumstances.
Well, yes, they ARE conservative when dealing with changed circumstances because those changes are not inputs. But they are also CORRECTLY more conservative when dealing with small samples than your garden avriety fan who wants to bench someone after a month. How many fans have touted Papi's future OPS as 700 not too long ago? So it cuts both ways. And the key word in your paragraph is possible changed circumstances. In fan-speak, possible often means "I see odd data, let me propose a change in circumstances; it can't be random".
   45. AROM Posted: May 20, 2010 at 07:22 PM (#3538099)
Bullpens are not the hardest things to construct.


Tell that to the 50% of teams that are really struggling with their bullpens. It seems like spending a lot of money on it doesn't help all that much. I think of the Angels and their dominant bullpens of half a decade ago with few expensive guys, and the current experiment in fail with Fuentes, Shields, Rodney, and Speier (yes, still Justin Speier) making 5 million+ each.

The Padres have one of the best, and cheapest bullpens (playing in a pitcher's paradise must help). Some teams seem to make it look easy. Some can't find anyone who can put out a fire, no matter how many trades they make or free agent dollars they spend.
   46. The District Attorney Posted: May 20, 2010 at 07:22 PM (#3538101)
trading Papelbon is entirely a question of the Red Sox contending status.
Okay, it wasn't at all clear that you felt that way. Certainly one could argue for keeping a player who is young, under contract through '11, and who you're in the process of arguing is a truly elite performer. But if the Sox are totally out of the '10 race, and the return in the trade is fair (and most likely won't include an established closer), then you're ok with trading him? Gotcha.
   47. John DiFool2 Posted: May 20, 2010 at 07:53 PM (#3538146)
I like Bard a lot, but his fastball seems a bit straight to me. We'll see.


Of course they said the same thing about Paps' heater, but it moved around quite a bit (and still does, albeit 2-3 MPH slower).

And the key word in your paragraph is possible changed circumstances. In fan-speak, possible often means "I see odd data, let me propose a change in circumstances; it can't be random".


Often on blogs and message boards positions are exagerrated for effect or purpose. _I_ haven't said, or implied, that there's a 100% chance that he's not going to be same pitcher he was, but the chance is definitely not zero; the various trends, (see post #42) are pointing towards the higher end of the spectrum. Don't prop a straw man up there pretending that I/you/we are dealing with absolutes here.
   48. Tim Dawson Posted: May 20, 2010 at 08:05 PM (#3538174)
SOSH, thanks for the Captain post, I never would've seen it otherwise. That was a class statement from Tek, and I never really thought he had that much class in him.

On Pap, I'm middle of the road in Matt's discussion. I can see his argument that he has been better with the splitter when he's featured it. But, I think the more important stat is tfbg's swings and misses. He just hasn't been getting them since 2007. Now, it's quite possible that this year's percentages so far are a blip, and that they'll go back to 08/09 levels, but I don't see how he gets back to 07 level.

I don't see how you could trade Pap without getting something major in return unless you're completely out of the pennant race. Even with getting something major in return, it would be tough. But I'd let him go in free agency, of course.
   49. Nasty Nate Posted: May 20, 2010 at 08:27 PM (#3538187)
Don't prop a straw man up there pretending that I/you/we are dealing with absolutes here.


Here's some quotes from this thread about Papelbon, from almost exactly one year ago. In the months following this discussion, Papelbon had about a 1.53 ERA, high K/BB, and avoided the DL. Maybe his current trends are more worrisome than the trends people were seeing last year, but don't you understand how some of us think this is more 'boy who cried wolf' considering we are talking about someone with an impeccable track record and is on the good side of 30 years old.

5/24-5/26
“His new mechanics blow and he should scrap them immediately. He's lost everything that made him ridiculously good last year due to the changes.”

“I would trade Papelbon straight up for pretty much anything, right now. I just want him off of the team while he still has any value whatsoever.”

“Please, all of you, tell me what happened to that wicked splitter Paps used to throw a year or two ago?”

“We are not getting too down on him. His performance is way, way off from his career norms . . . But his indicators are all much worse than a year ago. He's had only 4 1-2-3 innings this season in 20 appearances. He's morphed into heart attack closer territory. I'd say that's more than reasonable cause for concern.”

“I have little confidence that Paplebon will stay healthy for any length of time.”

“SOMEthing has changed, and is wrong, and his performance has suffered hugely.
He's done as an elite closer”

“I think he has something relatively serious, physically wrong with him.”

--not all of these are Fly
   50. Nasty Nate Posted: May 20, 2010 at 08:29 PM (#3538190)
By the way, very eery post from Chip in that thread on 6/28: "[Papelbon's] saving his badness for the playoffs now. That's my fear. One of those multi-baserunner innings is going to get very, very ugly at the worst possible time."
   51. John DiFool2 Posted: May 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM (#3538343)
If you find such a quote by me, I'll apologize (tho some of them are to the point, like #3). But, like I said upthread, at least he maintained his K rate last year during the slump, and that (and the concomitant low whiff rate) is what worries me this year. A spate of walks, by themselves, does not necessarily a trend make, but Christ, this was a guy who had close to a 10-1 K-BB ratio 3 years ago. Seeing it plummett all the way down to what it is now gives me pause, and I'll note that all of these issues came to a head in the ALCS. And, in a mostly unrelated matter, he might regret not signing that big extension, but we shall see.
   52. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: May 21, 2010 at 01:13 AM (#3538450)
49: To be fair, I DO recall posting 3 of those.

And I admit that I'm over the edge on Papelbon. But I really do want him gone. And I HOPE I lose my bet about < 21 saves this season.
   53. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: May 21, 2010 at 01:15 AM (#3538454)
And, in a mostly unrelated matter, he might regret not signing that big extension, but we shall see.

That's why I'm quite sure it's not his call. That was never offered. The Sox SAID it was offered, so it wasn't obvious that they thought he was seriously hurt after his "shoulder strengthening" a few years ago. That way, they can trade him, and he'll still have value to some other team in the future. Both sides benefit by pretending he wants to go year to year.
   54. Nasty Nate Posted: May 21, 2010 at 01:34 AM (#3538487)
re: #51, you don't owe any apologies. And post #21 has good info and is logical. I just remembered last year's late May Papelbon thread, and that prompted the "insanity" comments.
   55. tfbg9 Posted: May 21, 2010 at 03:50 PM (#3538861)
Of course they said the same thing about Paps' heater, but it moved around quite a bit (and still does, albeit 2-3 MPH slower).


Who is "they"? I never said that. The 07 Pap had a four seamer that was said to be quite difficult to "pick-up"
for the batter, that seemed to come out his uniform and just explode on them.

My eyes tell me that Paps no longer has that "corkscrew" action on his fastball. I know I'm referring to, and exaggerating,what in reality is a CF camera-induced optical illusion, but the movement appears to me to more right to left and flatter, rather that sort of clockwise and up action. We're seeing a different optical illusion nowadays.
   56. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 21, 2010 at 04:07 PM (#3538891)
But, I think the more important stat is tfbg's swings and misses. He just hasn't been getting them since 2007. Now, it's quite possible that this year's percentages so far are a blip, and that they'll go back to 08/09 levels, but I don't see how he gets back to 07 level.
Papelbon's swing-and-miss percentages over his career.

2006: 14.5%
2007: 17.7%
2008: 12.4%
2009: 11.0%
2010: 10.8%

Papelbon was a dominant reliever in both 2008 and 2009. What the fuss here?

I think we've all agreed that Papelbon v.2007 is not walking through that door. Papelbon v.2008 and Papelbon v.2009 are still among hte best relief pitchers in the world - that's how amazing he was in 2007.
   57. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 21, 2010 at 04:14 PM (#3538901)
Looking at just Z-contact is a little misleading, because Papelbon's getting less contact on pitches out of zone than he did in either 2008 or 2009. Here's Z-Contact, O-Contact, and overall Contact rates for Papelbon's career.

2006: 48.1, 81.6, 74.1
2007: 42.4, 75.5, 67.1
2008: 64.4, 82.3, 77.2
2009: 60.4, 83.1, 77.2
2010: 56.4, 88.6, 77.5

The other thing that's happening, leading to a higher Z-contact number, is that batters have swung at somewhat fewer of Papelbon's strikes so far this year than they did in 2008 and 2009 - he's getting called strikes on pitches that hitters very well might miss if they swung.

EDIT: since there's a disparity in the numbers - Papelbon's percentage of swinging strikes per pitches thrown has declined since 2008 (that's the numbers in post #56, taken from SwStr% on Fangraphs), while his percentage of swinging strikes per pitches swung at (that's the numbers here, looking at the inverse of Contact%) has remained the same since 2008. The drop in SwStr% from 2008 to 2009 is not a function of batters making less contact, but a function of Papelbon throwing fewer strikes, and batters laying off more of his pitches. He's missing bats at the same rate from 2008-2010, but after 2008 he started missing the zone quite a bit more.
   58. tfbg9 Posted: May 21, 2010 at 07:17 PM (#3539096)
The drop in SwStr% from 2008 to 2009 is not a function of batters making less contact, but a function of Papelbon throwing fewer strikes, and batters laying off more of his pitches.


Ok, but why is he throwing fewer strikes? Maybe its partly because Pap/Pap's Battery Mate know a higher % of these strikes are getting hit? I think that's part of the reason. I really do.

He's got a plus 4 seamer now. He used to have a plus-plus. But, MCoA, I like what he seems to be doing by going for the splitter K's a little more often. He's adjusting.

BTW, an better split makes a better fastball, and vice versa. When he "lost" his splitter, that may have caused some
of the Z contact rise we've been seeing. But my eyes also tell me his heater aint what it was.
   59. The Voice of America Posted: May 21, 2010 at 07:31 PM (#3539107)
Hi everybody. It seems to me that the consensus is that Paps is leaving when he becomes a FA. Why is that?

I know he has said he wants to set the market for closers, but for that he needs someone to pay him. I don't see anyone paying him Cordero or Rivera money.

Maybe at 10 mill a year he is a good asset isn't he?
   60. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 21, 2010 at 07:39 PM (#3539114)
I know he has said he wants to set the market for closers, but for that he needs someone to pay him. I don't see anyone paying him Cordero or Rivera money.
This certainly depends on how well Papelbon pitches over the next two years, but if he maintains his current production, I have no idea why he wouldn't make more money than Francisco Cordero, who's obviously way, way worse than Papelbon. We can't project the shape of the 2011 free agent market in 2011, so why would you think he wouldn't get that money? That's what closers have commonly been paid over the last several offseasons.

Obviously if Papelbon pitches poorly, he won't get that much. but if Papelbon pitches poorly, why would the Red Sox want to pay him $10M?

The basic position on Papelbon, around here, is that closers get paid more than they're worth on the free agent market, and that the Red Sox agree with us internet stat dorks on this point. Thus, it is highly unlikely that the Red Sox will have the highest bid on Papelbon if he becomes a free agent.
Ok, but why is he throwing fewer strikes? Maybe its partly because Pap/Pap's Battery Mate know a higher % of these strikes are getting hit? I think that's part of the reason. I really do.
Yes, that's perfectly reasonable. But - that started in 2009, not 2010. there's no 2010 drop in the swinging-strike rate or the contact rate. and Papelbon was pretty great in 2009.
   61. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 21, 2010 at 07:59 PM (#3539141)
Maybe at 10 mill a year he is a good asset isn't he?


I can't imagine he would only get $10 million. K-Rod got 12, Nathan got 12, Lidge got 12,...I've got to think he gets into that group.
   62. ugen64 Posted: May 30, 2010 at 03:24 AM (#3546020)
As an Orioles fan, I dream of the day when my biggest concern is a closer with a 3.00 ERA and 11 saves in 12 opportunities.
   63. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: June 07, 2010 at 09:55 PM (#3552772)
Reactions? Or can we get a thread?
   64. Darren Posted: June 07, 2010 at 10:12 PM (#3552800)
You hurt Pap's feeling so much that he went on the bereavement list today.
   65. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 08, 2010 at 12:08 AM (#3552963)
It's a good article, but once again, the evidence seems to be that Papelbon is pitching this year about as well as he pitched last year. And he pitched well last year.
2008: 71.3 Strike%, 56.3 Swing%, 11.5 Whiff%
2009: 67.5 Strike%, 51.8 Swing%, 10.4 Whiff%
2010: 67.0 Strike%, 49.7 Swing%, 10.0 Whiff%
They say these numbers are "moving in the wrong direction" but I can't see any meaningful difference between 2009 and 2010.

They also do something that bothers me - they use the "pitch value" stats as if they tell us things that we didn't already know. Jonathan Papelbon throws his fastball all the time. The value of his fastball tracks directly the results of his pitching. We know that Papelbon has a bad FIP this year, which means that his fastball value is going to be low. And indeed, it is. This isn't revelatory. The "pitch value" stats - especially the fastball value numbers - are mostly just a repurposing of FIP.
   66. Dan Posted: June 24, 2010 at 03:56 AM (#3568565)
Well, this jackass ruined another big win. In a repeat of the Yankees game where he blew a great comeback win with the ARod homer followed up by the Thames homer, he blew another game where the Sox overcame a deficit and overcame the odds, after he was handed an easy save with Bard doing the heavy lifting. Again, he gives up a tying home run. And again, he just falls apart and gives up another homer to a mediocre or worse hitter instead of keeping the game tied and letting the team try and come back. The Sox beat the "unbeatable" Jimenez, and then in the span of 8 pitches Ian Stewart and the dried up husk of Jason Giambi turn it into a gut-punching loss with an assist from Paps.

He's also been hung with 4 of the team's 30 losses this season.
   67. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: June 24, 2010 at 04:01 AM (#3568569)
We're really debating this ####? Come on. The guy sucks at baseball.
   68. Chip Posted: June 24, 2010 at 04:04 AM (#3568573)
Saddest of all, as I mentioned in the game thread, not only did he get beaten on a fastball in an awful location to Stewart but then he showed awful command on the secondary pitches to surrender the winning margin - first a mediocre slider to Barmes, then an absolutely dreadful hanging splitter to Giambi that just sat in the middle of the plate.
   69. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: June 24, 2010 at 04:31 AM (#3568582)
My fantasy team supports the disposing of Papsmear.
   70. Hugh Jorgan Posted: June 24, 2010 at 05:16 AM (#3568592)
He's also been hung with 4 of the team's 30 losses this season.

I was just thinking, just how often does a closer have more losses then every starter but one(sure, I cheated he's tied with Buchholz, but Buch has 10 wins so 4 losses looks heaps better)

At least he's fair about it. When he blows a save he's such a good guy that he's willing to take the loss instead!
   71. Dale Sams Posted: June 24, 2010 at 05:31 AM (#3568593)
Yup. He's done. Two whole blown saves. Papis done too. In fact the whole fukking team is done. FIRESALE!!!
   72. Nasty Nate Posted: June 25, 2010 at 12:47 PM (#3570018)
arg
   73. Dale Sams Posted: June 25, 2010 at 01:36 PM (#3570039)
When he blows a save he's such a good guy that he's willing to take the loss instead!


Now he won't even do that!
   74. Darren Posted: July 12, 2010 at 02:59 AM (#3586480)
20.
   75. Dale Sams Posted: July 12, 2010 at 04:30 AM (#3586544)
ugh

Hey...a win's a win, a save is a save. I'll take it for sure, but still..ugh. At least the FB is still pretty fast, but man, he can't hit the corners for shiite muslim.
   76. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 13, 2010 at 12:39 PM (#3587886)
While he's hardly been untouchable, since the discussion of "signature significance" in K:BB rate, Papelbon has a 16:2 K:BB in 17 innings.
   77. John DiFool2 Posted: July 13, 2010 at 01:44 PM (#3587936)
Yeah-odd that that turned around, but his other peripherals collapsed: 3 HR 14 hits in those (I get) 16 innings, 7 runs. He's clearly not the same pitcher that he was, which was the whole point.
   78. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 13, 2010 at 03:48 PM (#3588211)
He's clearly not the same pitcher that he was, which was the whole point.
He's clearly not the pitcher he was in 2007, that was agreed on. The debate is whether the pitcher Jonathan Papelbon has been in 2009-2010 is among the 10-15 best relief pitchers in baseball, still, even though he's not the single best in the world. I say yes, probably.
   79. Famous Original Joe C Posted: July 13, 2010 at 04:25 PM (#3588267)
Fly - one more save and I win our bet.
   80. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 20, 2010 at 02:30 PM (#3594035)
Since the thread...

19 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 3 HR, 2 BB, 17 K

The only worrisome number there is the homer rate, and that's a number with a ton of variability in it over two months of relief pitching. Papelbon looks good.
   81. Famous Original Joe C Posted: July 20, 2010 at 02:33 PM (#3594038)
Fly - one more save and I win our bet.

And that's 21 saves! Who should Fly have to sponsor?
   82. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 20, 2010 at 03:33 PM (#3594090)
Jeff Russell?

I was trying to look for old Red Sox closers, as a hint to get some perspective, but they're all sponsored already. Bill Campbell is sponsored. Heathcliff Slocumb is sponsored. Joe freakin' Sambito is sponsored.
   83. JC in DC Posted: July 20, 2010 at 03:40 PM (#3594099)
I ask this in all seriousness: What is it about Papelbon that provokes such anxiety over his performance? From my perspective, he seems to be one of the elite closers in the game and yet Sox fans/press seem annually to wrestle whether it's time to push him out. Is it Bard or some other replacement seeming better? Is it things he says or does outside the game? Am I mistaken about his performance?
   84. Smiling Joe Hesketh Posted: July 20, 2010 at 03:45 PM (#3594105)
Because over the past two years his command has deteriorated markedly, in part because he made changes to his pitching motion in order to take strain off the shoulder. I think there's both a general sense that he's probably pitching on borrowed time due to his previous arm issues, and the rather unfair act of holding his current performance up to his previously ridiculously good standard and finding it wanting.

And unfairly yet again, this is the same guy who started off his postseason career with a remarkable 25 innings or so of scoreless baseball, and that streak ended in hideous fashion last October. There's some sense that the magic show is over and that he'll be regressing rather abruptly. There's also the general idea that given his loud statements about wanting to get Rivera-like money once he's FA-eligible, that he's outta town no later than the end of the 2011 season anyway.
   85. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 20, 2010 at 03:49 PM (#3594108)
I basically agree with what SJH is saying, though I think he's soft-pedaling the basic point that the Papelbon Pants Pissers are wrong.

Papelbon, in 2007, was the best relief pitcher in the world. Like almost everyone who's ever peaked like that, Papelbon was unable to remain at that level, and he has merely been an All-Star closer since. Since he's no longer untouchable, Papelbon has had occasional runs of ineffectiveness and managed to blow a postseason save. This has led to lots of pants pissing.
   86. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: July 28, 2010 at 01:20 PM (#3601351)
And that's 21 saves! Who should Fly have to sponsor?

Hey Joe. Sorry, I didn't see this post.

Name your guy. Congrats.
   87. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 28, 2010 at 01:31 PM (#3601363)
...

23.1 IP, 17 H, 8 R, 3 HR, 3 UIBB, 22 K
   88. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 28, 2010 at 01:41 PM (#3601375)
I ask this in all seriousness: What is it about Papelbon that provokes such anxiety over his performance?

Maybe this line has something to do with it. Three guesses what it represents:

32 G

33.1 IP

27 H

20 BB

2 HBP

5 HR

1.410 WHIP

4.59 ERA
   89. Smiling Joe Hesketh Posted: August 12, 2010 at 07:35 PM (#3614909)
Bump.

Just cut him already. Christ.
   90. John DiFool2 Posted: August 19, 2010 at 02:36 AM (#3619938)
I'll give the silly essobee credit: he K'd the side in the ninth tonite and seemed to get his heater up to 97-98 again.
   91. tfbg9 Posted: August 19, 2010 at 03:13 AM (#3619972)
He actually hit 99 with a pitch in the Toronto day game meltdown last week.

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