June 25, 2010

Papelbon And Bard

Jonathan Papelbon has blown saves on consecutive nights and that has re-fired up talk of making Daniel Bard, who turns 25 today, the closer.

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  BABIP
Bard 81 .143 .228 .186 .227
Papelbon 82 .240 .278 .507 .232
Bases/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

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.


mattymatty said...

Everyone seems so sure that Papelbon is headed out of town in a year and a half. Here is a list of the highest paid relief pitchers from Cots:

1. Mariano Rivera, $15,000,000 (2008-10)
2. Brad Lidge, $12,500,000 (2009-11)
3. Francisco Rodriguez, $12,333,333 (2009-11)
4. Joe Nathan, $11,750,000 (2008-11)
5. Francisco Cordero, $11,500,000 (2008-11)
6. Billy Wagner, $10,750,000 (2006-09)
7. Kerry Wood, $10,250,000 (2009-10)
8. B.J. Ryan, $9,400,000 (2006-10)
9. Brian Fuentes, $8,750,000 (2009-10)
10. Trevor Hoffman, $8,000,000 (2010)

I know Paps is intent on breaking the bank, or at least keeps saying he is, but he's not Rivera (no insult as nobody is) and the next guys on the list (Lidge, K-Rod, Cordero and Nathan) are all making marginally more than Paps is now ($9.35M again according to Cots). Sure there is a $3M difference and maybe that is enough to send Paps elsewhere, but I'm not sure its a done deal yet. The Sox have the money and when it comes down to it, I think, if Theo is willing to commit a 3 year deal, I wouldn't be shocked if Paps stuck around beyond 2011. Provided he keeps pitching to his historical norms.

allan said...

I cannot imagine this FO ever paying that kind of money for a closer. They should be able to always have someone do the job for a fraction of the price. I'm interested to see what he signs for next year (or arb).

mattymatty said...

I guess what I'm saying, and I didn't do a good job of saying it in the above comment, is next season, assuming he's still in Boston, he'll be making about the same as the number two guy on that list above (Lidge). In his last year of arbitration he'll already be at the established salary ceiling for closers. I don't know how much more he can expect to make. In fact, it wouldn't shock me at all if he became a free agent and had to take a pay cut (on an annual basis). If the Sox can pay him the money next season and he is still a good pitcher and they think he'll continue to be so for the next three or so seasons (2012-2014) I wouldn't be surprised if he stayed in Boston.

Amy said...

Thanks, Allan, for the post and all the information. I remain an anti-fan of Papelbon despite your persuasive points about needing Bard more in the high leverage situations. I fear we will see more and more blown saves. I notice that his OPS stat is far higher than Bard's, meaning he is giving up more multiple base hits, like the two HRs the other night. Whatever. I guess we are stuck with him.

I will just hope that we can somehow get more than a three run lead in as many games as possible and avoid using him.