Papelbon’s September stats and closer fatigue

September 16th, 2008 → 11:28 am @ // No Comments

In case you haven’t noticed, the Sox’s most enthusiastic dancer has hit a rough patch the last week or so. (Papelbon himself has noticed–and he’s noticed that Eck and TC have noticed over on NESN as well.) In fact, according to Nick Cafardo’s piece in today’s Globe, hitters have a .414 BAA for Paps since Aug 28, and he’s seen his ERA jump from 1.71 to 2.11.

What else has happened in that time? Papelbon has been used a lot, and used on consecutive days a lot – on Sept. 7, 8, and 9, and then again on the 13th and 14th.

This reminded me of an essay on closer fatigue in The Bill James Gold Mine 2008 that looks at Mariano and his use over the years. There are lots of variables, and Bill, being much smarter than I am, figures out all sorts of ways to parse thousands of games worth of data, but the take-away is essentially this: for the Yankees, the difference between a rested and a tired Mariano has been the difference between a 103 win season and a 93 win season.

Intuitively, this makes sense, and I assumed that if I went back and looked at Pap’s game logs for this year, I’d find data that mirrored what we’ve seen in the past week or so. I was wrong. From April through August, Papelbon pitched on consecutive days 13 times – and didn’t give up an earned run on the second day once. (Interestingly, on the first day of those pairs, he’s given up 4 ERs and 7 runs total, which translates into roughly 41 percent of his total runs and 36 percent of his earned runs in 22 percent of his games. (Keep in mind: This is pre-September stats only.))

Does this mean fatigue doesn’t have anything to do with Pap’s 6.0 September ERA, or his 1.83 WHIP? Well, no, not necessarily. If you dig a little deeper, you find that Papelbon entered September with 58 innings pitched, well over the 47.1 he’d amassed through August 31, 2007. In fact, Papelbon’s total innings last year, playoffs included, was only 69 innings, which is just five innings under where he is now. (In 2006, Pap pitched a total of 68 innings…and was shut down for the season after he gave up 2 hits and a run in a third of an inning on Sept. 1.)

I’ll be curious to see how Papelbon is used for the rest of the year. I, for one, was mildly surprised that he was brought in with 1 out and a man on in a 7-1 game back on Sept. 7, (although it’s true that he hadn’t pitched in six games at that point, and the 2 hits he gave up could have been as indicative of some rust as anything). And I’m obviously in favor of pretty much anything that keeps Mike Timlin out of all games in which the Sox are neither winning nor losing by a minimum of ten runs.

Post Categories: 2008 Season & Bill James & Closer fatigue & Jonathan Papelbon

2 Comments → “Papelbon’s September stats and closer fatigue”

  1. kinshane

    15 years ago

    Manny Delcarmen – one of Beantown’s own – could shoulder a lot of the burden, but he doesn’t seem to be able to gain the confidence necessary to do so. His stuff is electric, but then he gets two easy outs and throws 10 balls in a row. Okajima-san has done great, and Masterson is pretty frigging good, but I think Delcarmen needs to step up and figure out how to harness that sick arm of his to take the load off Paps.


  2. ericinboston

    15 years ago

    i think you also have to look at pitch selection… he’s throwing fewer and fewer splitters and more fastballs and his slider. frankly, i think his slider stinks.

    to me that could be more the root of the problem than fatigue.


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