Friday, March 23, 2007

Papelbon More Valuable As Closer?

I’ve been too busy (and sick) for much of an update lately, but I wanted to add my 2 cents worth to the Papelbon discussion. Someone, probably Bill James since he’s done most of these studies, came out with a study years ago saying that the 80 innings pitched by an elite closer are more valuable than the 200 innings pitched by a non-elite starter, which I believe includes a #2 starter. The reason for this is that the final inning or two make up the most pressure-packed parts of a game and it takes a special pitcher to be able to handle those innings, particularly in a place like Boston. On the reverse side, the first 6-7 innings are more relaxed and even the weakest-minded pitchers (except Matt Clement) can get through them without breaking down mentally from the pressure.

So the point is this: we have a guy who was one of the best closers in the game last year and put together one of the finest seasons ever by a closer until he broke down on September 1st. We know he can do it and do it well in Boston. Or we can rely on guys who have a checkered past in the closers role or guys who have never done it before. Seems like an easy choice to me. Especially when you read how healthy Pap’s shoulder supposedly is.

“What about Pap’s Cy Young run?” some of you ask. There is no indication Papelbon would have pitched well enough to even compete in the Cy Young race as the closer. In fact, had him leading the Cy Young race in their Cy Predictor until he broke down last year. He’s got a better chance as closer than as starter to win the Cy. And Papelbon tends to throw too many pitches as a starter, averaging 17-18 pitches per inning, which is very high. The Sox were worried that he’d be a 5 inning pitcher, rather than give them the 7-8 innings they need and want.

This is a good move and also very exciting. If you drafted Papelbon as a starter in your fantasy baseball team you’re sitting pretty right now because you picked him late and now he’s much more valuable.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

More Answers From Schilling, Notes on Papelbon

Okay, I've become addicted to Schilling's blog. And not because he's actually answering my questions; also because he's very insightful and humble. Here's the latest batch:

Q-Do comparable salaries come up in salary negotiations? For instance, would you compare yourself to Gil Meche to make the point that you deserve significantly more than $13 million?

A-Absolutely not. The analogy I would give you is that I know where I ‘fit’ from a contract standpoint. Since 1997 I’ve been comfortable with where I thought I fit. I knew the post 1996 season market was going to be a big one, however I loved Philadelphia and thought that things were going to change. I thought the franchise was going to shift it’s philosophy and things would be different, so I negotiated a deal at around 6m per year. 24 million over 4 was a fantastic contract in my head. That winter Kevin Brown signed for 100+ million. Was I bitter? Hell no, I had guaranteed my family a lifetime of security. I did snicker a little bit AFTER the 1997 season, given what happened that year and how I felt I did, but no, I don’t compare the way you might think a player would.I would also tell you that I am sure some guys do, and more power to them if they do. The game made over 5 billion dollars last year, I have zero problems with players getting as much as they can. I think the problem becomes when players who get the maximum dollar try to present their case as something other than what it actually is.

Q-What do you use for stats in negotiations? What do they use?

A-Stats don’t really enter into my negotiations, at least for my last 2 contracts they haven’t. Stats play a huge role in arbitration, since they are basically the only evidence allowed. Stats play a smaller role in free agency with the exception of Scott Boras’ clients. From what I’ve read and seen the stuff that Scott creates for his clients is astoundingly in depth and convincing. Some agents use them to an enormous advantage.

I found this interesting that he doesn't use stats to negotiate contracts and the teams don't use his negative stats. Maybe when you've developed such a reputation that there's too much competition for your services. Who knows? I knew they were huge in arbitration, though.


Papelbon's line didn't look too good today, but as a new coworker pointed out, you never know when an established pitcher is trying something new to add to his repertoire. Papelbon knows he's got a job in 2007, whether it's as a starter or closer. He can afford to play around with a new pitch or release point. Or maybe he just had a bad day. Anyway, here it is: 3.2 IP, 5 hits, 1 walk, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 1 HR, 2 ER. Not pretty. The bright spot was the 5 strikeouts. It was great to see the bullpen, including some key 2007 guys, shut down the opposition the rest of the way.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Beckett Looked Better Than You Think

Don’t be fooled by Josh Beckett’s 5 innings and 3 runs allowed yesterday. He pitched better than you’d think. Only 2 of those runs were earned, thanks to a pair of errors by Alex Cora. And Beckett’s WHIP was a strong 1.20. He also fanned 6 in 5 innings while walking 0. The one dinger he gave up was a solo shot, so little harm done. I wish there was data out there showing how many pitches he threw, but I can’t find any.

The bad part came in the final inning, when Craig Hansen gave up a home run to New York’s backup catcher. Hansen is struggling and there’s no end in sight. And the Sox are reportedly watching Brad Lidge very closely, another train wreck. What can go wrong?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Schilling Answers My Question!

But not the one I posted here the other day. But it is stats-related. Check it out:

Q-An “expert” predicts Daisuke for 15 wins and a 3.75 ERA, how do I feel about that?

A-Um, let’s see. Not sure how to answer that one other than to say that prediction is probably worth less than the paper it’s printed on. I look at him as an unknown commodity, in a great way. This kid is so polished for a 26 year old. He’s pitched his best in the biggest games of his life, which usually means predictions about him suck. I think there will be a learning curve but I think his will be less steep than most, he’s that talented. I don’t think he’ll show up and throw 99 his first start out, I don’t think he has to. He’s got command of 5 pitches, including a 92-94mph fastball, and that’s more than enough to win big in this league. He’s certainly going to be doing it in the games toughest division to pitch in, in my opinion. I think he’s going to have a phenomenal season when all is said and done and those numbers I think are very pessimistic.

(again not able to de-italicize - I hate this)

I actually stated that the general consensus by "experts" is those stats. But close enough. Good answer by Mr. Schilling. I agree.

I also really liked this one (hey - no italics!):

Q-Do Tek and I keep the same notes?

A-No. Think about this a second. Tek needs to keep notes on hitters for anywhere from 12-15 pitchers, I keep notes on hitters and how they act/react to me.

Good poi (damn - they're back!)... good point by Curt here. Makes you appreciate Tek that much more.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hansen Finally Delivers a Good Line

Good to see this line from Craig Hansen last night:

1   1   0   0   0   1   0

And this from Manny Del Carmen:

1   0   0   0   0   1   0

Both have struggled this spring and both are considered major parts of the future of this bullpen.

Pedroia and Mike Lowell finally knocked out a couple of hits. The only way to go for those guys is up this spring.

JD Drew had his first dinger, which was also nice to see.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring Training: The Good, The Bad, and the Varitek

Okay, so it’s only been 2 innings, but Craig Hansen appears to be headed to AAA already. He apparently looked horrible and hasn’t been back on the mound. His WHIP was 4.00 and ERA was 22.50. Your future closer. On the other hand, Joel Pineiro has been great in his past couple of outings, bringing his ERA down to 5.68 and his WHIP to below 2.00. This is exciting stuff. Your other potential closer, Mike Timlin, has been shelved indefinitely. Great times. I predict that the Sox will trade for a closer before opening day. Hideki Okajima has been great, with 6 K’s and only 2 walks in 5.2 innings. JC Romero has been great, with a WHIP of just over 1.00 and 0 earned runs.

As for starters, I’m not going to bore you with the stats that you already know, like with Schilling and Daisuke. Papelbon has picked up where he left off, with a 0.40 WHIP and 8 K’s in just 5 innings. Beckett has not given up a HR and has only walked 1 guy so far. Good start.

On the offensive side of things, Coco Crisp has been downright offensive with his .458 OPS. JD Drew is tearing the cover off the ball with an 1.188 OPS. Eric Hinske has a .933 OPS. Mike Lowell has a .535 OPS. Julio Lugo has a .750 OPS with 2 stolen bases. Brandon Moss is tearing it up with a 1.039 OPS and more walks than K’s. Dustin Pedroia is picking up where he left off in 2006 with a .459 OPS. Solid. Youkilis has been great with a 1.171 OPS. Then there’s this kid Rogers. Maybe my friend at BoSox West can tell us a little about him. He’s been awesome, leading the team in RBI at 7 and he has an OPS 1.188. He’s also leading the team in SBs with 2. Varitek is the worst of all, with an OPS of .329. Ouch.

Keep in mind these numbers are over a small sample size and IT’S ONLY SPRING TRAINING. But it’s fun to see how certain guys are doing. Let me know in the comments if you’re looking for certain stats that you can’t find.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Schilling's Blog

I'll admit it: I'm really enjoying Schilling's blog. I didn't think I would, but he's been very insightful into the clubhouse, his favorite games, players he's hated to face, etc. It's quite interesting. I think it's going to get a coveted spot on my daily blogroll, alongside Deadspin and With Leather (slightly NSFW at times). I wish I had time for more sports blogs, particularly Sox blogs, but that's it. Oh, I do check out Boston Dirt Dogs every day, but that's not really reading material; it's more for the brief, witty recaps and the pictures.

Back to Schilling, he's answering reader questions, which is really cool. He's done quite a few each day for 3 days in a row now and promises to continue until the season, when he'll write a post about each game. I can't imagine any better recap than one directly from a player, who can tell us player reactions, in-game quotes, and funny clubhouse things. I know he'll never break the sanctity of the clubhouse, but I know there are things that are said that he can repeat.

Schilling hasn't yet answered my Timlin post and I'm sure he won't, but he did allow it to be posted, so that's good. I'm glad I've allowed myself to enjoy his blog. I was skeptical at first.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

My Comment Awaits Moderation

I'm a sucker and decided to check out Curt Schilling's blog. Like most people, I wish he'd just shut up and pitch, but I can't say the guy isn't entertaining. And he is revealing info that other ballplayers would never touch. He's answering reader-submitted questions and being quite honest. All of the questions show up right on his post, like they would here if you commented on this post. I thought I'd submit one and see if he chose to respond to it. I culled data from my most recent post about Timlin closing and added a couple more tidbits of data:

I know (hope) you would never say anything bad about a teammate, but you must be concerned about these facts coming from your potential closer:
40 years old (happy birthday to him).
5 of his 6 highest appearance totals have occurred in the past 5 years, in his late 30s.
Highest OPSA of his career in 2006.
With runners on in any situation over the past 3 seasons his OPSA balloons to .778, then to .795 with RISP.
With runners on both second and third base his OPSA is now a catastrophic .949.
With RISP and 2 out it’s still high at .830.
In close and late situations it’s still .760.
To compare, Jonathan Papelbon’s close and late OPSA is .464. With RISP and 2 out it’s .329. With RISP in any situation it’s a heroic .305. Mike Timlin would be a disaster unless he just doesn’t allow any runners, which is not likely. I don’t think I need to tell you that Timlin’s stats were much worse in 2006 than the averages above from the last 3 seasons combined.
I know Timlin was “tired” after playing in the WBC and he was instrumental in the 2003-2005 seasons, but don’t his recent injuries alarm Red Sox doctors that it might be time to retire? Why didn’t he pull a Foulke a retire before the Sox had to pay him for 2007?

And I got the following message after submitting it:
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
Of course. Schilling isn't going to let people post negative things about himself or teammates for everyone to see. I bet he won't post mine. I'd be shocked, even though it's all fact-based. And now that I pasted in the comment awaiting moderation from his site, which was italicized, Blogger won't allow me to de-italicize this paragraph. Sorry.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Timlin Cannot Be Our Closer

Word on the street is that Mike Timlin will likely be the Red Sox closer in 2007, at least until the trading deadline. Here’s why this can’t happen:

Over the last 3 seasons Timlin’s OPS against to start off an inning has been .624, the best of all of his OPSA splits. This is good news if he’s coming in to start the 9th. But it goes down hill from there. With runners on in any situation his OPSA balloons to .778, then to .795 with RISP. With runners on both second and third base his OPSA is now a catastrophic .949. With RISP and 2 out it’s still high at .830. In close and late situations it’s still .760.

To compare, Jonathan Papelbon’s close and late OPSA is .464. With RISP and 2 out it’s .329. With RISP in any situation it’s a heroic .305. Mike Timlin would be a disaster unless he just doesn’t allow any runners, which is not likely. I don’t think I need to tell you that Timlin’s stats were much worse in 2006 than the averages above from the last 3 seasons combined.