Lost in Translation, Pt. II

Terry Francona speaks English, so presumably he did not need a translator for his press conference yesterday. How, then, to explain this?

Papelbon not medically cleared to close games
— AP headline on ESPN.com
Francona didn’t rule out Jonathan Papelbon returning to the closer role.
— Nick Cafardo in The Boston Globe
In reality, they both use the same quotes, and the AP story also acknowledged that "Francona said it’s possible" Papelbon could end up as the closer in 2007 anyway, but that the possibility is remote. I blame the AP’s headline writers, though it’s easy to see how they got confused, considering Francona also said, "It’s not happening." Perhaps we do need a Titoese translator — "He won’t be closing before he is closing."

So Papelbon as 2007 closer? Case still open. Maybe.
64 comments… add one
  • I would assume it would require that the doctor(s) clear him for the role. Which would only happen if the Sox went back to the docs asking for it, meaning some other guy(s) failed miserably.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) February 7, 2007, 12:03 pm
  • I don’t know about the regular season, but I would imagine though, that come playoff time (unless of course, Paps is so good in the regular season he breaks in the top 3) he’ll probably close – and I’ll hate to face him!

    Lar February 7, 2007, 12:16 pm
  • I suggested that before, Lar. If Papelbon doesn’t break into that top three (which, in reality could happen) he’ll play that Derek Lowe role circa.2004. A great versitility to have when the time comes. I doubt he’ll close if there’s been a consistent person in that role all year, but it could really help to have him setting up and stopping a rally by the other team.

    Brad February 7, 2007, 1:06 pm
  • It seems a lot of people, at least in the press, are having trouble dealing with the nuances of the situation. It seems pretty clear to me that Papelbon will not even be in contention to close unless he’s medically cleared, and he isn’t medically cleared, and probably won’t be. And the only way he COULD be, as Rob said, would be if he was sucking as a starter and whoever was closing was sucking at that as well, and his shoulder could take the strain.

    Paul SF February 7, 2007, 1:54 pm
  • “The Red Sox medical staff, as well as his personal physician and one provided by agents Scott and Sam Levinson, concurred it might be easier on his arm if he started every fifth day rather than endure the rigors of getting up and down in the bullpen and pitching frequently on short notice.
    What’s not true is that Papelbon is prohibited from returning to his closer role.”
    That’s a far cry from having to be “medically cleared”. What gives? Is Cafardo off base, or is the sox FO spinning this to try and head off the screaming cabal that will result if the bullpen gets off to a rough start?
    IMO, based on the FO’s history, I put my money on the latter…

    Andrews February 7, 2007, 3:26 pm
  • Francona: “To be perfectly honest, I suppose the possibility exists but I think it’s a very long shot. A lot of things have to happen for that to eventually happen and I don’t see that happening. The first thing is he would have to be medically cleared to do it, and that’s the reason he’s in the starting rotation…If I had my druthers, he would be our closer. That’s how I feel, it’s not happening. We have to respect the medical peoples’ advice, and I do, I’m not fighting it…unless that changed it can’t happen. On top of that, we would have to have a bullpen that was struggling, we would have to have him as a starter that was struggling that I don’t forsee happening. But to completely rule it out, I don’t know if that’s fair.”
    Tito used the words, “medically cleared,” so the AP didn’t really do anything wrong. Andrews, that article came out 2 days before the press conference. I don’t really understand what has to happen for him to be considered officially “prohibited” from closing, but it sounds to me like Cafardo is just taking the lack of a “no, it will definately never happen in 100 million years” as a sign that it still might.

    desturbd1 February 7, 2007, 3:49 pm
  • Why are we even debating the nuances of this? Papelbon undoubtedly is beginning the season in the rotation, and he’s going to stay there through May at the very least to see how he does. Medical issues nonwithstanding, I honestly think the Sox want to see what he can do as a starter. 200 innings > 70 innings last time I checked. Pap was brought up through the minors as a starter, remember–I think this was their plan for him all along.

    mouse - SF February 7, 2007, 4:10 pm
  • It definitely was, mouse. Last season, he was beginning the season in the bullpen because the Sox had a plethora of starters (for, like, two days). When he became a lights-out closer, it actually robbed the Sox of some of their flexibility (not that I’m complaining) because he was to be the No. 1 backup if someone like Wells or Clement … or Wakefield … or Schilling … or Lester went down with an injury.

    Paul SF February 7, 2007, 4:22 pm
  • It’s a good thing the Sox kept Paps as a closer. They might not even have been a .500 team otherwise.

    Andrew February 7, 2007, 4:40 pm
  • “200 innings > 70 innings last time I checked.”
    So, you think your team is better served by a 4th – 5th starter than a lights-out closer? Ask any yankee since ’97 where he weighs in on this issue.
    “just taking the lack of a “no, it will definately never happen in 100 million years” as a sign that it still might”
    If the sox struggle in the closer department, they’ll get the “medical clearance” quick as a flash, no doubt.
    Once again, I go on the record as saying Paple will close in ’07.

    Andrews February 7, 2007, 5:14 pm
  • There’s no question the Sox (or any team, for that matter) would be better off with an above average starter than a lights out closer. Statistically closers do not appear in as many high leverage situations as one might think, and a performing starter, contributing 3-4 times the innings, will be far more useful, especially considering the depth of the staff. Starting staffs that can carry significantly more innings are typically more successful, and last year was no exception.
    As for “200>70”, I think the real math is “160+/->70”. I seriously doubt Papelbon throws 200 innings. Last year in the AL a total of 21 pitchers accomplished that, an average of less than 2 per team. The Sox actually had two in Beckett and Schilling. If those guys do the same, Matsuzaka approaches 200 and Papelbon gets anywhere near that number, the Sox will be in phenomenal shape, I would think. The Yankees had 3 guys over 200IP in Wang, Johnson, and Moose. They won the division. The other teams in the AL that cracked two pitchers over 200 innings (or 400 innings for two starters) were Oakland and Minnesota, both division winners (and Blanton had 194, so they almost had three), Detroit (wild card, three pitchers over 200IP) along with Anaheim and the White Sox, who finished with 89 and 90 wins, respectively. Not a bad trend.
    But to me it’s just not realistic to expect Papelbon to throw that many innings. As I said elsewhere, if he gets 160+ I think that will bode very well.

    SF February 7, 2007, 5:30 pm
  • Thing is SF, all the teams you mentioned with multiple starters with 200+ innings pitched that did well in the standings also had very good closers.
    Paps, Mo, Street, Nathan, K-Rod, Jenks, and Jones. Uh, I don’t know if I’d call Todd Jones a great closer, but he did get the job done most of the time.
    Or is this just a coincidence?

    Whatever February 7, 2007, 7:21 pm
  • Well, it might be because in the AL West and AL Central, they won by a few games – a few games that could easily be decided by a closer.
    But of course, now we’re doing handwaving..

    Lar February 7, 2007, 7:35 pm
  • I used the 200 more as a generality than an actual expectation for Papelbon’s workload. I think the Sox will likely try to curb his innings this year, and rightly so.
    And yes, I am of the camp that even league-average starters are more valuable than relievers, including most otherworldly relievers. That’s just an opinion, of course, so feel free to disagree.

    mouse - SF February 7, 2007, 7:41 pm
  • So, SF, using your logic I’m supposed to believe: 1) if Mo had been a 4th starter logging 160+ innings a year, the yanks would have won 4 rings with, say Benitez as their closer? 2) the sox in ’04 would have done just as well with Timlin instead of Foulke? I could go on and on, but the point is: a solid closer makes the difference in must win games, especially in the postseason.
    “There’s no question the Sox (or any team, for that matter) would be better off with an above average starter than a lights out closer”
    There’s plenty to question. I’ll ask one when your league average closer blows a few important games next year.

    Andrews February 7, 2007, 8:06 pm
  • The Things that scare me about this (as a Yankee fan) are:
    Paps gets a full season to develop and refine all his pitches. As a closer he generally would only throw only his BEST pitches, the pitches he feels most comfortable with. He goes into the postseason with 150-160 innings and feeling fresh as a daisy. Dice-K is as good as advertised and the Sox go into the playoffs with a 3 man rotation of Schilling-Beckett and Dice-K. Now where does that leave Paps? Hmmmm let me think…..That’s a pretty scary scenario in any playoff series, especially a 3 gamer.
    Now all the sox have to do is make the playoffs.

    Triskaidekaphobia February 7, 2007, 8:40 pm
  • Andrews, your points are perfectly valid. However, look at the team from the AL that made it to the World Series last season. Todd Jones is hardly an amazing closer. But the Tigers got near-unbelievable production from their starters last season. Such production is possible from the Red Sox staff this season.
    The flip side, I suppose, is the case of the Cardinals. Their rotation beyond Carpenter was in shambles (nice way of putting it) until Suppan and Weaver stepped it up in the playoffs. They finished off with a great rookie closer (Wainwright, who I think could be a great #2 behind Carp…maybe even starting next season). So I don’t think there’s a set formula. Foulke is another example of this.
    Either way, both methods can be successful. For the Sox, it was most financially viable (Matsuzaka), personnel-sensible (Gagne was the best option available without losing a mid/top-tier prospect, and there are questions with him), and medically sensible (Papelbon) to try the formula the Tigers used last season.
    All that being said, a fair trade with the Rox for Brian Fuentes or with the Nats for Chad Cordero wouldn’t be unwelcome.

    QuoSF February 7, 2007, 8:57 pm
  • Whatever refutes Andrew’s point (in advance) by mentioning Todd Jones, who was not a lights-out closer by any means. As late as Aug. 13, his ERA was hovering around 5, yet he had 31 saves. Of the 62 games in which he appeared, men were on base in only three. When the Tigers were at their worst, in September, Jones was at his best — dropping his ERA a full run and giving up just 1 ER after Sept. 2. Jones led the league in “Easy Saves” (a James stat in which the reliever comes in and the tying run isn’t at the plate) with 26. Jenks and K-Rod had 25 each.
    In a postseason series, having a great closer is certainly a much bigger deal, and Jones was very good in the postseason. But in the regular season, there’s only anecodtal evidence one way or the other. Starting pitching will win and lose a lot more games than a closer will. And the number of truly difficult save situations is incredibly small by comparison — J.J. Putz led the AL with five “Tough Saves,” games in which he entered with the tying run on base. In the AL, there were only 41 of those situations in the ninth ALL SEASON LONG out of more than 4,000 possible.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a lights-out closer and not even have to worry about it. But I do believe that having one in the regular season is overrated, likely because the failures in such situations are so spectacular (Fausto Carmona) and it is certainly desirable for a team to avoid such mind-numbing losses. I like Trisk’s idea. Move Paps to the pen for the playoffs, and you’ve gotten the best of both worlds.

    Paul SF February 7, 2007, 9:03 pm
  • I should correct to say there were 41 successful conversions for Tough Saves in the AL. I don’t know how many opportunities there were, but I’d guess not too many more, considering the caliber of the names on the list (Putz, Papelbon, Jenks, Ryan, Street).

    Paul SF February 7, 2007, 9:05 pm
  • Quo, according to most posters on this site, team success is defined by winning the WS; therefore “both methods” can’t work – with the exception of arizona in 2001, going to ’98 every WS champion has had a dominant closer in the postseason. None of them were of the Johnny-Come-Lately (what you suggest for Pap in ’07) variety.

    Andrews February 7, 2007, 9:47 pm
  • You forget they also had Zumaya, who could turn games into 6-inning affairs.
    Having a strong bullpen, it doesn’t need to specifically be a closer, is a great boon in the postseason.
    Also, please remember that Rivera is one of the, if not the, greatest postseason performer of all time. He’s an outlier who only happens once in a lifetime, so of course he’s going to be the most valuable member of the Yankees postseason teams. It doesn’t necessarily prove that postseason success absolutely relies on great closers. We baseball fans are just spoiled by Rivera’s near-diety status.

    Andrew February 7, 2007, 9:51 pm
  • “But I do believe that having one in the regular season is overrated,”
    You really can’t quantify the effect a dominant closer has on a team – I’ve heard so many yankees say that they count the outs until Mo gets the ball – a psychological advantage which manifests itself in many ways – hitters being more relaxed at the plate is one example. I say James disrespect for closers is wrong until proven otherwise, and we’re still waiting…

    Andrews February 7, 2007, 9:56 pm
  • But the question isn’t “do you want a lights-out closer or not?”. It’s “do you think the Sox would be better off with Papelbon in the closer role than in the starter role?”. The answer to the first is “yes”. We OF COURSE want a lights-out closer. But the answer to the second question is not necessarily a “yes”. In fact, based on everything that has been published, it’s probably a “no”. The context in which we have to assess Papelbon as a closer or as a starter relates to his health specifically, and changes the dynamic I think.
    In a vacuum, if I knew a pitcher would be a lights-out closer and also an above-average starter, I’d take him in the starter role every time. But that’s just my opinion, and clearly not everyone agrees.

    SF February 7, 2007, 10:15 pm
  • I simply am not comfortable speaking for most of the posters on this site like you Andrews. Both Detroit and St. Louis were successful clubs last season, in my opinion. A lot has been written about the component of luck (an uncontrolled, unstable, external entity) in the form of hot streaks for teams in the playoffs.
    Andrew (no s), I did not forget Zumaya, nor Rodney, nor to a lesser extent Ledezma/Walker/et al. Andrews’s point had to do with teams needing a dominant closer, if I were to choose to sum it up in altogether too-simplistic terms. The Tigers are an example contrary to that opinion. And guitar hero Zumaya was unavailable for a time in the playoffs anyway. The Tigers lost because of an extremely anemic offense during the World Series. (and the absolutely uncalculable grit of David Eckstein)
    Also, nowhere did I suggest Papelbon as a Johnny-Come-Lately option in the playoffs. He may be, but I did not suggest it.
    “I’ve heard so many yankees say that they count the outs until Mo gets the ball” Yankee fans should hope their players count the outs in all situations. Alternately to that point, there are players who trive on pressure. Using David Ortiz as a popular example (especially since I’m an SF), he’ll still be the same in the batter’s box, but if it’s possible, he might have more of a drive to succeed with Pineiro looming in the 9th, rather than Papelbon. Use Jeter for this, YFs, if you want. There’s certainly plenty of data about the man thriving in the clutch. And there’s no denying that he’s “driven”. Jokes about his olfactory aspirations aside, if there were no Mo, Jeter would be able to remain calm while also having a higher motivation to succeed and give the Yankees a 4-5 run lead rather than a 1-3 run lead.
    Making the point that all teams since ’98 have had a dominant closer is, in my opinion, a poor argument. The D-Backs, as you yourself mention, are an exception. And the lone exception. Did you know that the D-Backs were also the only team with a Capricorn on the roster? (untrue story).
    The point being, correlation should not be confused with causation. Yes, all those teams had a dominant closer. Take the ’99 Yanks. Won the World Series. Both of Rivera’s saves came with a 3-run lead. Wouldn’t it have been possible for Jason Grimsley to save those games?

    QuoSF February 7, 2007, 10:22 pm
  • //and the absolutely uncalculable grit of David Eckstein//
    You just made me spit water all over my computer, Quo.

    mouse - SF February 8, 2007, 1:29 am
  • Heh, if that made you spit water, make sure to read the archived Eckstein pieces on firejoemorgan.com, if you didn’t read them when they first “printed”. (As you’d imagine, most of these were in Oct/early Nov.)

    QuoSF February 8, 2007, 2:28 am
  • Thing is SF, all the teams you mentioned with multiple starters with 200+ innings pitched that did well in the standings also had very good closers.
    The fact is that the Sox had a great closer, and won squat: the root of their troubles was a decimated rotation. The Blue Jays had Ryan, but their problem was an injured Burnett and inconistency from the bottom part of their rotation. The Mariners had Putz and finished nowhere. Same with the Rangers and Otsuka and the Orioles and Ray. These teams all suffered from weak starting pitching.
    I am almost immovably convinced that having consistent, above-average starting pitching will lead a team to success far more than having a very good closer. Reverse-engineering the “good teams have good closers” idea makes little sense to me. Look at it another way, with two questions. First, how many bad teams have good closers? Answer: several. Second: how many mediocre/bad teams have three, perhaps even four starters in their rotation who are consistent and above-average? Answer: none.

    SF February 8, 2007, 6:06 am
  • “Take the ’99 Yanks. Won the World Series. Both of Rivera’s saves came with a 3-run lead. Wouldn’t it have been possible for Jason Grimsley to save those games?”
    Yes, both of Mo’s saves in the WS were with 3 run leads, but you neglect to mention Game 3, in which he worked 2 innings, holding a tie and got the win in the bottom of the ninth.
    In the ALCS (remember that one?) in game 2 he saved a 1 run game after giving up 2 hits. In game 1, he worked 2 scoreless innings, held a tie and got the win.
    In the ALDS, in game 2 he saved a 2 run game.
    Point being, no, I don’t think Grimsley would have had the same success.
    “Making the point that all teams since ’98 have had a dominant closer is, in my opinion, a poor argument. The D-Backs, as you yourself mention, are an exception. And the lone exception.”
    Care to back that up with something other than a cute astrological reference? I have a very vivid memory of Kim almost singlehandedly losing the series for Arizona.
    ” I simply am not comfortable speaking for most of the posters on this site like you Andrews.”
    I’m not. It’s my observation that many on this site are quick to point out the yank’s “lack of success since 2000, even though they’ve won 95, 103, 101, 101, 95, and 97 games respectively. I don’t agree that winning the WS is the only measure of team success.

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 9:21 am
  • I have a very vivid memory of Kim almost singlehandedly losing the series for Arizona.
    And I have a very vivid memory of who DID singlehandedly lose the Series for the Yankees.
    ;-)

    SF February 8, 2007, 9:38 am
  • My backing that up had everything to do with not taking causation from a correlational relationship.
    As far as ’99 is concerned, it’d be hard to prove that without Mo in that tie game, the Yankees would have lost the series. Again. No way to prove it one way or the other. I suppose SF makes the most clear argument as to the “neccessity” of a great closer for success.
    The Yankees haven’t won a WS since 2000, and that fact always makes me smile. I find it hard to call them an unsuccessful team, however. I suppose all that has to do with is how success is judged. Maybe we should all make a point to distinguish between success and “ultimat(e)” success. Either way, hard to call the 2006 Red Sox (even with Papelbon) a success. Did some of that have to do with all the starts handed to Kyle Snyder/Jason Johnson/et al? I have to think the answer is yes.

    QuoSF February 8, 2007, 9:42 am
  • “I am almost immovably convinced that having consistent, above-average starting pitching will lead a team to success far more than having a very good closer”
    So, you are defining success as getting to the postseason, not necessarily advancing once you get there. In that case, the yanks have been successful every year since ’98. Seems that you choose to ignore the importance of a closer in the postseason.

    Anonymous February 8, 2007, 9:44 am
  • Ugh, this is silly. The Yankees have been tremendously successful for the last decade, however you want to define the last 6 years. That’s been for many reasons, not the least of which has been Mariano Rivera. Though Rivera clearly benefits circumstantially for playing for such a strong team. That’s not to take anything away from him, he may be the best closer ever, but he certainly works within a fantastically strong franchise, and that can only help.
    But generally speaking, teams have a much better chance to advance during the regular season and during the post-season with an extremely strong rotation. The closer position seems less of a prerequisite to regular season success. The post-season magnifies pressure, so therefore one could reasonably argue that an icy closer is a huge asset; I am inclined to agree. BUT, you don’t get to close games without an established lead, and leads generally appear when starters do their jobs, first.
    Basically I can’t even believe there’s an argument over the relative importance of rotations vs. closers. I really can’t.

    SF February 8, 2007, 9:51 am
  • OK, here’s another hypothetical question, to try and drive home my point even more stubbornly:
    If one could choose from two teams to start the playoffs (offenses being equal), which would one choose:
    1. Stellar rotation, solid bullpen, closer position questionable.
    or
    2. Mediocre rotation, solid bullpen, closer position established.
    Last season notwithstanding, I’d take #1 every time. It simply has a better chance of winning any given series, and would probably win more series over a longer sample size. There will be anomalies, of course. Last year seems like one of them.

    SF February 8, 2007, 9:55 am
  • “My backing that up had everything to do with not taking causation from a correlational relationship.”
    Care to expound on this a little?
    “I suppose SF makes the most clear argument as to the “neccessity” of a great closer for success.”
    Yes, he does. If Rivera had, to use his words, “done his job”, we would still be chanting “1918”.
    “Did some of that have to do with all the starts handed to Kyle Snyder/Jason Johnson/et al? I have to think the answer is yes.”
    I agree; but some also had to do with Varitek’s terrible season , subpar play by Crisp, a stupid trade for Mirabelli, lack of hitting from your SS, various injuries, etc. That’s just baseball – the fickle bitch of a game we all love so much.

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 9:57 am
  • i’m getting dizzy from all the spin…
    first of all, lay off eckstein…the guy’s an over-achiever, with a bit of an edge, so it’s easy to be annoyed with him, but we’d both take him on our respective teams…
    now, back to the spin:
    yf’s will preach the value of a good closer because we’ve had the privilege of seeing the greatest of all time for the past 10 years…i said a couple of days ago that you can’t determine how many fewer games the yanks would have won over those 10 years without mo, or what the circumstances would be [division title or post season elimination on the line], but i’d rather have had him on the mound in those situations than anyone else…
    sf’s will devalue having a good closure primarily because they don’t have one, and secondarily because their moneyball gurus [and the oakland a’s] claim you don’t need a great closer, an ordinary one will do…[it’s amazing how their philosophy about-faced so dramatically in one short year]…my bet is if they have 10 or so blown saves in the first couple of months of the season, you’ll see an outcry to try something else, and pap will get his “medical clearance”…or maybe shilling will become the closer as he offered to do in the past…
    there’s some evidence to support both points of view, but like i say, after having seen mo over the past decade, i want to have a good closer…
    sf brings up a good point, if you have the chance to choose [as in paps case] a solid 4 or 5 starter or a closer, you take the starter…i’m not sure it’s that simple…you have to keep him healthy to get any value, and if the best way to do that is by starting him, then the rest of the discussion is moot…the discussion in general is more complicated anyway…without a good contingent of starters, and yes, middle relievers [the forgotten ones], a closer probably doesn’t make that much of a difference…the yankees have had decent starting pitching over the 10 years, but the years tom gordon was setting up for mo were like money in the bank…

    dc February 8, 2007, 9:58 am
  • SF, that’s like being caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. I honestly can’t say one or the other; I would have to look at the pitching rosters – Weaver, Rogers, Suppan anyone?

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 10:04 am
  • Glad to see you, dc.

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 10:07 am
  • There should be no argument, it’s #1.
    And the even better option, #1A, is what I suggested earlier and I would bet Diamonds to Donuts that’s the case come October. Unless of course Piniero turns into a lights out closer.

    Triskaidekaphobia February 8, 2007, 10:08 am
  • likewise andrews

    dc February 8, 2007, 10:13 am
  • I don’t think it’s a tough decision, hypothetically. I’d always take the stellar rotation. Always.
    As for dc’s comment about how we’ll feel about 10 blown saves in the first two months, I think this is an armageddon scenario, always a possibilty (see last year’s Sox rotation problems), but I won’t go there right now, I don’t have the strength. Most teams in the AL ended with approximately 20 missed save opportunities. The Sox had 23. The Royals, the league’s worst, had 31 missed save opportunities. The Yankees had 17, The Tigers 16, the A’s 20. If the Sox have 10 missed save opportunites in the first 30% of the season then the closer isn’t the issue: this would indicate that the entire bullpen is in tatters.

    SF February 8, 2007, 10:13 am
  • “But generally speaking, teams have a much better chance to advance during the regular season and during the post-season with an extremely strong rotation”
    I realize you’re speaking generally, but without even a thought, the Mets and Cards from last year leap to mind. Sometimes teams with a dominant offense can succeed without a strong rotation – the yanks in ’04, the mets last year, the angels in ’02…

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 10:17 am
  • The key is sometimes. I’d take #1 because in the long run, conceptually, that team will win more often. Nobody said they’d win every time.
    Whichever team wins more than half the time is the one I’d pick. I bet that’s #1.

    SF February 8, 2007, 10:21 am
  • There is no “Hard Place.”
    A mediocre rotation may allow you to get to your “Lights Out” closer, but in the long run that mediocre rotation kills not only the closer but the bullpen. Having a mediocre rotation and a “Lights Out” closer is like putting spinners on a Pinto.
    Yankee fans why did we win 4 WS rings? Not ONLY because of Mo, but because we had great rotations. How was Mo going to help us last year against the Tigers?

    Triskaidekaphobia February 8, 2007, 10:21 am
  • For the regular season, I admit I say # 1 too; for the postseason, I still maintain that there is a hard place – I would have to look at the rosters, not only pitching, but hitting as well before deciding.
    “Not ONLY because of Mo, but because we had great rotations.”
    Very true, but also because of a group of hitters that was particularly good in clutch situations and great defense as well

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 10:30 am
  • dc, this has nothing to do with the actual argument at hand, but a couple points.
    1. If ‘spin’ is not your favorite word, I’d be delighted to know what is. :)
    2. Re: Oakland and Moneyball. The philosophies of Oakland’s organization are always going to be fluid precisely because of Beane’s underlying theory: acquiring that which is under-valued. If closers were someday under-valued, he would make sure to acquire a lights-out closer. The .OBP comes from the same vein. It was a commodity, when he took over in Oakland, that was under-valued in the baseball community-at-large. Example acquisition: Scott Hatteberg. Not sure how the underlying philosophy has changed. Huston Street is a cheap commodity for them now (and his BABIP data suggest that he will be closer to 2005 than 2006 next season, but closers and relievers not named Mo are not particularly known for consistency anyway), but I guarantee that unless they sign a “makes sense for both sides arbitration years + 1-2 FA years deal”, Street will be available either as soon as he hits FA, or before that in a trade. Beane’s philosophy works great in Oakland for two reasons. 1. A’s fans are a knowledgable and dedicated fanbase, but they are not the bad kind of fanatical that some SFs and YFs can be. 2. Beane is “the man” in Oakland. He has ultimate authority on every issue. Such a status is not conferred on Messrs. Theo or Cashman, and thus Theo is under tremendous pressure to succeed, and may sometimes (Lucchino-driven or otherwise) be forced to go against an underlying philosophy. So if you’re talking about the philosophy on a closer changing (i.e. don’t need a lights-out closer neccessarily), you really have to look no further than Mr. Joel Pineiro. It’s obvious they don’t feel the Sox need a lights-out closer, because my guess is his ceiling as a closer is in the Todd Jones-range of success.

    QuoSF February 8, 2007, 10:38 am
  • Right and in the case of the 2007 Sox they have the best of both worlds. They have #1 and for the playoffs they can add that lights out closer.
    Andrews, I remember Chad Curtis’ HR, Joe Girardi’s triple, Jim Leyritz’s HR and so on but without the pitching staffs that we had from 96-2000 there isn’t a snowballs chance in h*ll the Yankees win 4 rings. It begins and ends with Starting Pitching.

    Triskaidekaphobia February 8, 2007, 10:38 am
  • I think the stats SF cited bear this out pretty well. The Tigers, playing with someone who is not by any means a lights-out closer, were second in baseball in fewest blown saves. Only 14 games separate the leader from the last-place team in terms of blown saves, and that assumes you lose every save you blow (which you don’t). Of course, 14 games is a large margin, but in the scheme of 162 games, I imagine it’s pretty far down the list of possible factors. It’s certainly smaller than the difference between having two solid, 200-inning starters at Nos. 4-5 and having Jason Johnson and Kyle Snyder out there instead.

    Paul SF February 8, 2007, 10:47 am
  • “without the pitching staffs that we had from 96-2000 there isn’t a snowballs chance in h*ll the Yankees win 4 rings. It begins and ends with Starting Pitching.”
    That’s true of every year except ’96. The rotation that year was fairly weak – Pettitte being the only starter to crack 200 IP – but as we all remember this was tempered by 2 innings of Mo and 1 inning of Wetteland when needed.

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 11:38 am
  • I’m not sure how this turned into a black and white starting pitching vs closer argument.
    I still maintain that in terms of the sox’ ultimate success, if I had to choose between Paplebon being my closer or 4th – 5th starter, I’ll take him as closer, anyday.

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 11:57 am
  • Not to change the subject or anything, but check out JD Drew’s health routine:
    http://www.eagletribune.com/pusports/local_story_035120445?keyword=topstory

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 12:08 pm
  • I still maintain that in terms of the sox’ ultimate success, if I had to choose between Paplebon being my closer or 4th – 5th starter, I’ll take him as closer, anyday.
    He’s useless to the Sox on the DL. If he closes he’s apparently more likely to end up on the DL. The risk management is completely rational. Your stance doesn’t make sense in the context of Papelbon’s medical story.
    If you were determining Papelbon’s role it’s likely you’d be undermining the Sox’ roster. Which makes total sense – a YF running the Red Sox!

    SF February 8, 2007, 12:11 pm
  • Didn’t Paplebon say ” if we were still in this, I’d be out there pitching”?
    So, hysterical post aside, you’re buying into the “injury that prohibits him from closing” line. If there truly was “a subluxation of his right shoulder”, I doubt the guy could consider pitching.
    Seems logical that his shoulder was barking after a routine that his body wasn’t used to. Not a career threatening injury, unless you buy the “always honest and reliable” health reports that teams give the press…

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 12:41 pm
  • You also keep hinging your argument on Papelbon’s being no better than a 4-5. If given the choice between a league average 5th or lights out closer, medical issues put aside, I think most would take the closer. But since Papelbon has the potential to be a legitimate frontline pitcher…

    desturbd1 February 8, 2007, 3:59 pm
  • “If the Sox get 150-160 (23-25 starts?) healthy innings out of Papelbon (he, Wake, and possibly Lester are interchangeable as 4th/5th starters)…” – SF
    merely using SF’s numbers – take this one up with him…

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 4:06 pm
  • Andrews: I should have been clearer: I mean 4th or 5th starter on the Sox, which (in an ideal world with Beckett, Schilling, Matsuzaka, and Wake) would be a 2 or 3 on another team. In other words: if the Sox can throw out a #4 starter who is as good as many 2/3 guys elsewhere, I’d much rather have that than JP as a closer. If, like D1 says, he was just league average 4/5, then count me in for a bullpen stint (forgetting the health issue for the moment).

    SF February 8, 2007, 6:03 pm
  • “if the Sox can throw out a #4 starter who is as good as many 2/3 guys elsewhere, I’d much rather have that than JP as a closer”
    For argument’s sake, lets say they can; wouldn’t you then be at a disadvantage when playing other teams ( regular and postseason) with strong rotations who have a stronger closer than your current options look to be?
    If your rotation pans out anything like you hope, I’ll still take Paps as closer. (health issues aside, naturally) I tend to think Francona agrees with me on this one.
    As this horse, er, point has been kicked into hamburger, this is my last comment. :)

    Andrews February 8, 2007, 7:46 pm
  • Somehow, and it’s not surprising, SF twisted this debate from having either an additional good starting pitcher in the 4th slot of your rotation or a lights out closer, to having a lights out closer or a “stellar rotation”.
    The question is (was), would you want a decent starter in the 4th slot (Wakefield, Lester, whoever), and a great closer who nails down all the wins in the ninth (Paps), or have a better starter in the 4th slot (Paps) and have a lousy, inconsistent closer who blows a bunch of saves.
    If you’ve got a good top three in your rotation, I think you’d go for the great closer. And most experts would agree.
    Obviously, to be a great team, and especially over the long haul (regular season), you need both the starting pitching and the good closer. All the best teams in the AL last year had both.
    It’s rather humorous that Sox fans are arguing so strongly (trying to convince themselves) that you don’t need a good closer which, at this point anyway, is exactly where the Red Sox are at. Go figure.
    Maybe someone will step up and this debate will be a moot point. If not, and the Sox pen starts blowing saves, Boston fans will be demanding Paps go back to the pen if nothing else can be done.

    Whatever February 8, 2007, 8:12 pm
  • That’s unfairly hostile, WE. The debate has developed quite organically, and there are YFs and SFs on both sides of the issues discussed herein.
    Nonetheless, your comment is full of misconceptions and misinterpretations, not the least of which is the idea that SFs believe that there is no necessity for a good closer. Look at my comment from 10:15pm last night, and then please stop the blatantly dishonest antagonism.

    SF February 8, 2007, 8:41 pm
  • Lighten up SF. I’m not being hostile. And really SF, just because you say it doesn’t make it so. IMO, everything I said is true.
    Yeah, in your 10:15 comment you said you’d like a good closer, but then you once again try to make the case that a better starter is more desirable than a great closer. Why? I’m thinking it’s because that’s exactly what your looking at with the Sox going into the season, so why not spin it in “the sox are making the right move” fashion. I didn’t say soxfans don’t realize they need a closer, just that they’re trying to put the best face on not having one. You, Paul, mouse, and Quo, all Sox fans, were all pushing the “starter over the great closer” argument. Andrews, the Yanks fan, was on the other side, and then there was Trisky, who seems to agree with Sox fans here a lot.
    As far as you changing the context of this debate, Andrews noted in his 11:57 a.m. comment: “I’m not sure how this turned into a black and white starting pitching vs closer argument”.
    Lastly, you accuse me of blatantly dishonest antagonism. Not true SF. My comment is just my opinion of what I read in the earlier comments. Nothing more. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, but don’t go overboard with your criticism of me.

    Whatever February 8, 2007, 9:54 pm
  • “Why? I’m thinking it’s because that’s exactly what your looking at with the Sox going into the season, so why not spin it in “the sox are making the right move” fashion. I didn’t say soxfans don’t realize they need a closer, just that they’re trying to put the best face on not having one.”
    Flip it around. The Yankees are going into the season with a legendary closer and a rotation with questions at every spot, not the least of which is Pavano. Would it be a terrible leap to make to assume YFs are “spinning” the debate to their situation as well? At least, it’s no bigger a jump than the one you make, WE.

    QuoSF February 8, 2007, 10:00 pm
  • I agree with Sox fans alot? Ask Paul how often I agree with Sox fans.
    I am not simply making a statement which I believe to be true and factual. The Red Sox are more then good enough to make it to the playoffs with a sub-par closer. Their starting pitching is just that good, on paper. Their offense should be just that good, on paper. NOW could they win in the postseason without moving Paps back to the pen OR making a trade for a top tier closer? Possibly but like I said earlier they are in a pretty darn good situation right now, provided there are no injuries. Having Pap as an ace in the hole for the playoffs is a heck of card to be holding!
    Also like I said days ago, this will also make Paps much, much better which is SCARY. Being a starter will help him develop all his pitches and give him confidence to throw when he eventually gets moved back to the closer’s role. It will also strengthen his shoulder and make him stronger. He has the potential to be an elite player and I honestly believe that a year in the rotation will fast track him towards that elite status.
    Finally, just to clear the air I hate the Red Sox. I dislike the Eagles, I dislike the Cowboys, I hate the Red Sox. BUT I will never compromise the truth or my baseball knowledge because I dislike a team. That’s just dumb.

    Triskaidekaphobia February 8, 2007, 10:09 pm
  • That first line should be I am!

    Triskaidekaphobia February 8, 2007, 10:10 pm
  • Quo,
    That’s an interesting point that truthfully never crossed my mind, but I get your drift. The Yanks have some big ?s on their staff, no doubt, but so do the Sox. Things could go either direction on both staffs. I’d give the Sox the edge on starters at this point.
    Trisky, OK, I believe your Yankee allegiance, but IMO, your painting a best case scenario of the Sox pitching situation. If that’s the way you see it, OK fine. BTW, I like that “I hate the Red Sox”. Twice.

    Whatever February 8, 2007, 10:33 pm
  • sorry i missed the rest of this debate until just now…it looks like we ended the way i suggested…each side trying to convince themselves they’re in good shape going into the season…guys, it’s what we’re supposed to do…and no quo, “spin” is not my favorite word…i do use it frequently because it seems most appropriate in describing some of the biased perspectives we get here occasionally…i think we’re all guilty of it from time to time…even you…

    dc February 9, 2007, 12:02 pm

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