Pet peeve #831

February 24th, 2007 → 12:30 pm @ // 10 Comments

On ESPN.com, Jayson Stark has a column about how the Red Sox wish Jonathan Papelbon would remain as closer. “Under ordinary circumstances,” Stark writes, “no team moves men who are that good at a job that important to some other job. You sure won’t see the Red Sox trying Manny Ramirez at shortstop this spring. And David Ortiz won’t be hitting leadoff.” More to the point, regardless of how effective Ortiz is at moving runners from first to third, you won’t see him punching the ball to the opposite field instead of swinging for the fences, which is exactly what the Red Sox wanted him to do when they signed him.

And, as Papelbon himself knows (“the Red Sox drafted me as a starter,” Paps told Stark, “and that’s what I’m going to be”), he’ll be most valuable in a spot in which he can pitch the most innings. It’s common sense that 200 innings is worth more than 70. That’s why mid-level starters get $12 million a year and, in ’06, Mo made $10.5 mil. Unfortunately, common sense isn’t a lot of sportswriters’ strengths.

There are plenty of exceptions out there, and regular readers of this blog are well aware that of I think Rob Bradford is one of them. It’s obviously good news that Bradford has a new blog, Bradford on Baseball. If you haven’t already, check it out. You’ll be glad you did.


Post Categories: Jayson Stark & Jonathan Papelbon & Rob Bradford

10 Comments → “Pet peeve #831”


  1. PaulZuvella

    10 years ago

    I wouldn’t say that it’s common sense that Paps will be more valuable as a starter. Would you agree that Mariano Rivera better serves the Yanks as a reliever than a starter? He was brought up through the minors as a starter, so it wasn’t a matter of him not being able to pitch the innings, but his pitches were best for a closer. Nate Silver at BP did a whole study using PECOTA for both scenarios and came to the conclusion that Paps would be more valuable in the reliever role than in the starter role.

    And I another this should go under one of your earlier posts, but might Mariano be actually the greatest bargain of all time?

    Reply

  2. rog

    10 years ago

    I think guys who closed in the 80’s for World Series winners who got paid $200k were probably better ‘bargains.’

    Reply

  3. miles44

    10 years ago

    Stark is clearly saying he thinks closer is a more important role than starter. So through the Manny analogy, is he also saying LF is a more important position than SS?

    Also, he says the Red Sox are hoping for no MORE blown saves in game 7 at Yankee Stadium. When was the last one? Wakefield in 2003 was a loss, no?

    Reply

  4. johnw

    10 years ago

    I have to agree with Seth. Follow the money: starters make a lot more money than relievers. Whatever baseball people say about closers, their checkbooks fly open for starting pitchers.

    If you can’t get to the ninth inning, it doesn’t matter who your closer is. The Yankees had Rivera at the top of his game last year, but their rotation couldn’t carry the load. Papelbon was the best closer in MLB, but the rotation fell apart; his brilliance couldn’t get the Sox into the playoffs. The closers in the World Series last year were Adam Wainwright and Todd Freakin’ Jones.

    Reply

  5. PaulZuvella

    10 years ago

    john, a minor quibble, the Yanks starting rotation did a decent enough job carrying the load. They ran into a very good and streaking team in the Tigers, whose pitching shut down their line-up. They did have the best record in the AL last season.

    I don’t think what player’s are paid is indicative of their true value. The market is filled with inefficiencies (Is Juan Pierre more valuable than all star relievers?)as books like Money Ball suggest. Now, this is a very interesting question connected to Papelbon, who had one of the best years by a closer ever in his rookie season. How valuable is it for a ball club to like the Yanks know that they have a dominant finisher every season? Without the injury issue, the Sox have that in Papelbon. The question for me is do you Sox fans really believe that Theo and company would still want Paps as a closer if he were cleared to pitch in that role? My guess is yes.

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  6. chris

    10 years ago

    Speaking of Mo, see the sidebar in the NYT about how he doesn’t plan to sign with the Sox in ’08? File under stupid media tricks… Johnny Damon said similar things rather recently, IIRC. Not that it matters: if the Sox won’t pay Schilling because he’s old, I can’t see them reversing their position for Mo, closer or no.

    Reply

  7. HFXBOB

    10 years ago

    chris, although they haven’t said so, I think the Sox position on Schilling is based not just on his age, but on the combination of his age, medical charts and stats over the past 2 years. If you want proof of that, look at how how they have been bending over backwards to try to sign Clemens, who is more than 4 years older than Schill. If Rivera has another typical season, and does become available, I think they would go after him very hard.

    Reply

  8. magnetichf

    10 years ago

    i’ve been sorta confused by the whole paps “should he close or should he start” controversey. it’s my opinion that a top-shelf starter, over the long haul, is more valuable to a team than a top-shelf closer. so, while having paps coming out of the pen in ’06 was a nice luxury, i’m anxious to see him settle into his new role as a starter and make the sox rotation as dominant as we hope it will be.

    obviously, if for some reason he can’t cut the mustard as a starter, and if his shoulder can take it, then i’m all for him going back to the pen. but pulling the plug on his career as a starter following one great season out of the pen doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    Reply

  9. dbvader

    10 years ago

    Seth,
    Do you have any information from the inside regarding the Papelbon situation? There are a lot of contradictory statements coming out of camp. Before the end of the season, Boston was putting it out that he would be a starter for health reasons. At the beginning of the season, this statement was repeated. Over the last week, though, the media has had Francona pining for Papelbon in the closer role.

    How much of the desire of the Front Office to have Papelbon start is the product of its general belief that starters are special and relievers are mostly fungible? How much is its worry that Francona rode him too hard last season?

    PaulZ,
    A few questions/responses.
    How much do you trust PECOTA in regards to Papelbon? My understanding of the method is that predicts performance based on the performance of similar players judged by age, statistics, and body type. I would doubt PECOTA’s Papelbon projection because (1) he has less than four full professional seasons on which to base any projection and (2) the modern closer role does not provide many similar pitchers to compare. I don’t see how PECOTA can project whether a young pitcher will excel as a closer when such cases are so rare in history.

    If you look back on the Yankees pitching staff, only two starters, Wang and Mussina, had decent ERA’s, and the latter had a poor IP/start. The starters pitched poorly and did not pitch enough.

    If you look at some comprehensive statistics at Hardball Times, Pierre and Rivera have about the same value. Look at Win Shares and RC v. PRC for the two players.

    Reply

  10. Nordberg

    10 years ago

    Bill Pecota?

    Reply

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