Friday, March 23, 2007

Papelbon back to the pen

Oh well...

It was nice having one of the strongest rotations (on paper) in the majors while it lasted... just a pity it didn't even make it one time through that rotation.

It was announced last night that Papelbon had requested a move back to closer, and that the Sox were willing to accommodate him. You have to wonder whether he would even have made the request had the Sox been able to find someone who had been able to step up into that role, or if the club had had the confidence to stick with the plan.

Why did the team not simply tell Jonathan that they appreciated the offer, but they would let the first month of the season play out, and if no one in the pen stepped up the way he did the year before, then they would take him up on that offer?

But we now have a rotation that includes both Wakefield and Tavarez, and as ugly a prospect as that is this year, it also creates a hole in the rotation for as many years as we should have been counting on Papelbon as well, unless we go through this farce every year.

The main argument in favor of this change seems to be that a team needs a closer - just an absolute BS argument for me - the Cardinals didn't last year, while the Tigers kind of did, the White Sox didn't the year before, while the Astros kind of did, the Marlins didn't in 2003, while the Yankees most definitely did, the Angels didn't in 2002, while the Giants did, the Diamondbacks didn't in 2001, the Yankees most definitely did - I know that by the time the play-offs came these teams had confidence in who their closer would be, but so what - the play-offs are a long way off...

From Jim Caple's chat on ESPN:
Pete (San Diego): Jim, whats your take on Papelbon remaining as the Sox closer for this season? Does this mean the Sox go hard after Clemens?

SportsNation Jim Caple: It's a mistake. As Steve Buckley and I write in "The Best Boston Sports Arguments'' (shameless plug for my book), the closer is the most overvalued position in baseball. Think of how many guys came out of nowhere to be effective closers (Eddie Guardado, JJ Putz, etc.) and you realize how replaceable that role is. A good pitcher is always more valuable than a closer (my bold). And don't give me how devastating it can be to lose a game in the ninth inning Sure it hurts. But you remember the loss because it happened at the end of the game. no one remembers how many games you lose earlier because a mediocre starter dug you into an early hole in the second inning, then forced you burn out the bullpen for the next game.
That sums up so much more of baseball for me than just this argument - we remember the memorable, we forget the mundane - we will forget how many games we don't get to a closer because we are carrying two, frankly, less than ordinary pitchers in our rotation, but we would remember a blown save by Joel as if the world had collapsed.

For a team that seems to rely a great deal on the analytical, this is a strange move, and while you can hold out faith that there are other irons in the fire - perhaps a belief that Lester is likely to be in the majors in a months time, or a greater awareness of Clemens thought process than we know - they do seem to be making some strange decisions - $4m for Pineiro to not even try closing in 2007?

1 threw a strike:

At 4:12 pm, Blogger s1c said...

Ok, this is how its going to go down, Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Wakefield and Tavarez go out and give us 7+ innings for April.

The first one out of the bullpen will be Okijama if we are in the lead and the inning starts with a lefty batter, Pinero if its a righty, followed by the other one in the eighth with Papelbot finishing the game (assuming save situations).

If non save then look for Snyder or Delcarmen. Personally I like this bullpen, I think there is a lot of potential and all of them will be solid relievers.

My concern is with the hitting. I really would like to see Coco batting 2nd behind Lugo. Crisp is lethal on fastballs and if Lugo is on he will see a lot of fast balls.

Ideally I would like to see Lugo, Crisp, Papi, Manny, J.D., Youkilis, Lowell, Varitek and Pedroia.


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