However, as I noted in last night's game thread, even after the last two nights, Bard has still blown more saves (4 of 7) this year that Papelbon (3 of 19). Bard blew saves in consecutive outings in early April, against the Yankees and Royals. And when pressed to close with Bot on the bereavement list two weeks ago, Bard had an ugly inning against Cleveland.
Papelbon has issues, but he is still way better than most closers. I think having the Bionic Fruitbat doing otherworldly things down the road for years and years (and years) has skewed our perception all out of proportion.
Plus, Bard is getting very high leverage innings -- situations that may be more important to the outcome of the game than pitching the ninth. Bard leads all of MLB in most appearances in high leverage situations (28), with Papelbon tied for fourth with 22.
Bard has come into 14 games (out of 37 total) with runners on base compared to only 3 (out of 30) for Papelbon. They have each recorded an average of 3.1 outs per appearance.
ESPN has a page of stats for only closers, but it's quite limited and not sortable. Papelbon's WHIP is 17th out of 30.
Dave Cameron, at Fangraphs, notes that Papelbon's velocity and swinging strike rate are in line with his career averages and his first strike percentage is nearly at a career high. Cameron points out Bard's poor BB/K ratio against lefties this year (8/12 versus 4/28 against righties), but Bard has also limited LHB to a .116 average and .139 slugging.
There are serious issues with Papelbon, even without comparing him to his fantastic 2006 and 2007 seasons. His strikeout rate is down, his walk rate is up (his % of pitches thrown outside the strike zone is at a career high), his home run rate is way up, and his LOB% is down. He is also getting swings outside the zone at a career high -- likely connected to an increased use of his splitter, which is back up to the frequency it was in 2007.
High Leverage Stats
PA AVG OBP SLG BABIPBases/Outs Runs Saved (given the bases occupied/number of outs situation, how many runs did the pitcher save over average?): Papelbon 6.3, Bard 12.3
Bard 81 .143 .228 .186 .227
Papelbon 82 .240 .278 .507 .232
Win Probability Added: Papelbon 0.542, Bard 2.333.
Opponents' OPS - Among relief pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched, Papelbon is 48th in the American League at .746 (Bard is 8th at .526 and Manny Delcarmen is 18th at .594).
Opponents' OBP - Papelbon is 28th in the AL, with Bard (7th) and MDC (26th) ahead of him.
Here is a chart of the WHIP by age of both pitchers, along with the league average:Papelbon is not eligible for free agency until the end of 2011, so barring some extraordinary trade in which Boston can get back an exceptional amount of value, he is likely here for another year and a half. After 2011, I cannot see the Red Sox paying him the free agency moola he will be asking for.