Monday, September 6, 2010

Is This Keith Foulke Level?

The most recent devastating loss the Red Sox suffered at the hands of Chicago (who's second in the Wild Card right now, yo!), contrary to what the sensationalists say on television, is NOT the most devastating loss of the season. The Buchholz/Drew/Atchison/Dan Johnson game eight days ago was devastating, preventable, debatable, and was the point where it officially became over. However, the Chicago game Sunday afternoon was plenty bad. It was another game when they fell behind and came back, an admirable trait that has pretty much been characteristic of this team (and part of why this team is not "boring").

But the biggest issue with this one is the same as the issue on six other games this year. It's further evidence that Jonathan Papelbon is mediocre at very best. He leads the league in blown saves and has 1/3 of the team's 21 blown saves. (Bard has six, for the record.) But the guy is just no longer a good relief pitcher. Sure, he should probably play out the rest of 2010, because these games don't matter anymore. But Bard should probably get a chance. And Papelbon very well might be an appropriate candidate for being non-tendered next year.

We've already gone over the number stuff, and there's no reason to discuss the exact same stuff. But now he's very easily a below-average closer. Do the Red Sox really need to pick up his last year, or would they rather spend that $10+ million on a player who doesn't suck? He is not fooling anyone anymore. He is giving people free passes to first base on the regular, something he didn't do at all during his heyday. He gives up a home run every ten innings, making him just short of Scott Atchison.

But on August 12th after the Papelbon blown save against Toronto, I wrote the following:

"Who should be the closer? This could further put chemistry in jeopardy. I'd say stick with Papelbon, because promoting Bard (unless Papelbon literally goes Keith Foulke, Johnny from Burger King and everything) would result in Papelbon saying F it and JDing the rest of the season. The first time Bard blows a save or has a shaky save, there would be calls to put Papelbon back in. The way I see it, changing would create even more havoc than there already is in that bullpen. If they're going down, they should be going down with the best setup man in the game and the twelfth-best closer."

Well, they have already gone down. If Papelbon gets demoted and pouts the rest of the year, the games don't matter anymore, so who cares? Putting Bard in there for a few reps would be good for the 2011-beyond Red Sox, because that's all that matters now. Papelbon would want out, and that's fine with someone with declining stuff and declining numbers and has previously said he should close an All-Star Game over Mariano at Old Yankee Stadium and should set the bar for all future closers. If he wants out, that's fine. Because the Red Sox probably want out too.

And Papelbon has come dangerously close to going full-out Keith Foulke, even down to saying bizarre things to the press. "I don't feel bad for my teammates after I put them in a bad situation?" I understand his points, but you don't say that. If I race bad, I feel bad for the freaking spectators because they saw a terrible product, nevermind the teammates who I'd let down.

By the way, also an interesting case will be Hideki Okajima, who is a) arbitration-eligible, b) going to be 35 years old, c) cannot throw the ball 90 mph, and d) sporting an ERA over five, qualifying him as the worst reliever on the staff. Also a non-tender candidate?

I hope y'all had a good Labor Day.

7 comments:

TimC said...

YES.

Actually, I have not read the post, I just read the title. I am looking forward to JD-ing out at work today very much...

But, it would have to be a terrific, compelling piece of writing to get me to change my answer.

Anonymous said...

I hope Pat F or the Gunn chime in today with some obvious comments like, "You can't evaluate Papelbon in a vacuum," or "I would trade Papelbon depending on what we would get in return."

That would really make my day.

I think we need to say see you later to the Sox and start talking about how the Yankees will do in the postseason as well as the start of the NFL this weekend.

The Patriots will be loaded offensively but the defense looks suspect. If I was running the Patriots defense I would dial up Buddy Ryan style blitzes every play.

bandi

TimC said...

Bandi,

Good idea about discussing the NFL. I would like to hear your thoughts on the Raiders. From my vantage point, the first nine weeks are relatviely weak and will give them a chance to reach a surprising five or six wins. From there, though, with a tougher schedule and the high likelihood of being hurt by the regular injuries that hit all NFL teams I see the Raiders slipping to finish around 8-8. I think, unless they avoid the injury bug better than other teams (which is a luck factor), the Raiders will have their below-average depth exposed in November and December.

The Pats look nice on O and unpredictable on D. I think the preseason panic is overblown. In general, NFL teams do not scheme defensively in preseason to hide looks and make them harder to plan for in the regular season. The Pats, among the league's top scheming teams, should see some improvement if the young players can fit the game plans molded by Belichick and co.

Now, speaking of panic, it seems that the preseason panic of some around here regarding Papelbon was NOT overblown. The guy is toast and we knew this last season but the Sox chose to ride their luck and it has cost them. In a season like this, blame cannot be assigned to one area of the team. But, unlike the injuries, inconsistency after the top two SP, shockingly bad defense at catcher, JD'ing out from non-JDs, and a host of other problems, the bullpen issues CAN be blamed on a lack of adequate offseason preparation. Focusing entirely on the closer might miss the point; the Sox simply stunk up and down the bullpen. The idea behind pitching and defense is to make runs more valuable by protecting them. However, this strategy will fail once again if the 'pen keeps throwing slim leads away.

Anonymous said...

DV/Tim

Papelbon has been a huge disappointment this year. You take his seven blown saves out of the equation and the Sox are leading the Wild Card. Granted, asking for perfection is a little much, but even if he'd only blown half as many saves, this would be an entirely different season right now.

That said, I think non-tendering him is a little harsh, if only because he probably has some serious value to a lot of other teams. As bad as he's been, he'd be an upgrade for many teams out there.

The best thing the Sox can do is trade him this winter for something of value. The worst thing they can do is let him go for nothing. If they do happen to bring him back it wouldn't shock me if he had a very good year next summer. But, I really don't want to see him closing any more games. I think he's run his course and his best days are behind him.

--the Gunn

TimC said...

Gunn,

Trying to get something out of him would be the smart move. I think that is why they will not turn the ball over to Bard in the final month because if Papelbon goes on a streak in September against some decent opposition his price will be high in the winter and the team could deal him. I would not be surprised if the plan this season was to trade him if he ever got back to his dominant self.

However, it looks like the poor guy is dangerously near the cliff and if he falls off the Sox are going to be stuck paying some decent money to a guy who will limit their payroll flexibility. As frustrating as this year was for the Sox bouncing back strong next year is not just a matter of health and resolve. They will need to make some upgrades and any extra dollars that are available will help that cause.

To me, the best bet is to just hope he makes some outs in the next month and some sucker out there takes the bait for him in December. A highly unlikely scenario, though.

the gm at work said...

Tim,

Love the cleverness of the C&P job. I'm not being sarcastic. Obviously you can allow for some blown saves over the course of the year, but this bullpen has allowed 21 to date, already more than the number of blown saves last year.

Bandi, thanks for keeping it real.

Gunn, does Papelbon have ANY trade value? I will stop short of saying 46 should be non-tendered, because there is at least hope that moving forward he could be a productive major league baseball player at the age of 27 (his birthday is Saturday). He may be a complete pussy, but his skills are not fried.

Would anyone want to rent Papelbon for one season at ten million dollars? Doubtful, and that includes the Red Sox! If the Red Sox want to trade this guy for value, they might actually have to eat money. And while I know that Theo Epstein will have a large void in his heart now that Julio Lugo's no longer going to be paid to play for another team, paying $0 to let him go might be worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Tim,

The Raiders will hang around in a lot of games this year because their overall talent level is improving.

However their offensive line is very weak and they don't have a proven #1 reciever which is going to hurt. It also hurts to have Michael Bush with a broken thumb (unsure if he can play-probably not) since he is their best running back (not Darren "I go down too easy" McFadden).

Defensively they have some talent but they will need to adopt some modern day defensive packages to be effective.

In short, I would be thrilled with 7-9 or 8-8. They benefit from playing in one the NFL's worst divisions.

Bandi