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  1. I would stick with Papelbon also, but would the Red Sox pick up a closer at the deadline just in case.

    Comment by oompaloopma — June 24, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

  2. You won’t discount Papelbon’s struggles because of a sample size of 125 batters faced, but you will take seriously Bard’s platoon split based on 78 batters faced? Especially if he was better last year? In the last two years, Papelbon’s xFIP vs. LHB is worse than Bard’s (4.30 vs. 4.13)

    Comment by scottj27 — June 24, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

  3. I would stick with Papelbon for now, but it appears to me his fastball has much less movement than before, even if it’s the same velocity. A 94-mph flat fastball isn’t much problem for hitters when you can’t command a second pitch (he rarely throws good splitters anymore).

    Comment by No I in blog — June 24, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

  4. The beauty of all this is that there was an article on Bard a few days ago talking about his improvements based on a similar sample size (by a different author).

    If this site is going to continue to be an effective advocate for advanced statistics, the writers need to understand sample size, confidence levels and the concept of statistical significance.

    I understand the early season articles, which admirably usually carried the sample size disclaimer…. but lately ‘analysis’ is being done with no weight (or little weight) given to sample size and stats are being cherrypicked to back up perception.

    Comment by frank — June 24, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

  5. So, 125 batters isn’t a significant sample, but 78 is? Even for his career, Bard has only faced 175 lefties.

    For his career, Papelbon’s xFIP against LHH is 3.30 This year, it’s 5.10, last year it was 4.00.

    And over that same span, Bard has been far better against righties. He’s not much worse than Papelbon against lefties, and the stuff is clearly beter as well.

    I’m not necessarily in favor of switching them either, mostly because I think Bard’s role is actually more valuable right now, but this didn’t seem like a very well thought out argument.

    Comment by Joseph — June 24, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

  6. I had had this impression too, but, the numbers don’t lie, PitchFX has him at actually slightly MORE movement (vertically) now than in ’08…

    ’08, FA-X: -8.5, FA-Z: 8.6
    ’10, FA-X: -8.2 FA-Z: 9.4

    His splitter is showing similarly good movement.

    The one thing I can say is he’s got a 5% drop in overall Zone%. As has been discussed a lot here, that’s subject to a pretty small sample size, but is also perhaps a side effect of increased movement?

    Comment by dave — June 24, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

  7. Ignoring the 125 TBF vs. 78 LBF thing, I have some issues with this, regarding Papelbon.

    In 2008, Papelbon had the lowest walk rate of his career and *by far* the highest groundball rate he’s ever produced. This helped him get away with his falling strikeout rate, which dipped from 13 per nine to 10 per nine. He was mostly a one-pitch pitcher at this point, but he had excellent control, and as I said, countered the falling strikeout rate by picking up groundball outs.

    In 2009, Papelbon didn’t find those missing strikeouts–his K/9 was 10.1–but he did lose his control, posting his highest walk rate since becoming a full-time reliever, and the grounders also disappeared. He succeeded because he kept the ball in the yard–his 3.98 xFIP is a long ways from his posted 1.85 ERA, so luck was on his side in 2009.

    He hasn’t had that luck in 2010. His xFIP is now even higher, at 4.79, he’s lost even more whiffs, and his control and the grounders are still amongst the missing.

    Yes, the sample from 2010 is small. But no, shrugging it off because he’s faced 125 batters is not a good idea, considering how lucky he was in 2009, what made him succeed in 2008, and the brand new alarm bells he’s set off in 2010 thanks to the worst K/BB of his career and a homer rate that has seen him give up a career high in homers before we hit the halfway point of the season.

    Comment by Marc Normandin — June 24, 2010 @ 7:03 pm

  8. Best possible scenario is that Bard gets the job when Pap’s contract expires and nobody overpays for a “proven closer.”

    Comment by Handwasher — June 24, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  9. Closer by committee (of two)!!

    Comment by Dan Jacobs — June 24, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

  10. Possibly the most upsetting part other than the loss of Paps performance last night was that it came against the bottom of the Rockies lineup and the remains of Jason Giambi. Of all the people to give gargantuan homers up to… ugh.

    Comment by mattymatty2000 — June 24, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  11. Paps split is also as effective as it’s ever been. Furthermore, he’s actually using it this year. PWG (poster was guessing)

    I agree with Cameron

    Comment by Dirty Water — June 24, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

  12. I won’t disagree with posts pitting Bard’s numbers vs LHB, but I will say that using xFIP to judge an excellent closer who’s given up 6 unfortunate HR’s in a whole 29 innings of work is pretty stupid. If xFIP is supposed to be so predictive why is it the opposite in this case?

    Paps ERA is a far better stat to apply to his work this year. There, I said it.

    Comment by Dirty Water — June 24, 2010 @ 8:40 pm

  13. I like eggs

    Comment by CaR — June 24, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

  14. Bard please

    Comment by Stu — June 24, 2010 @ 11:49 pm

  15. The worse thing about Papelbon’s struggles this year is the fact he is probably their best trade chip right. The Red Sox will not sign Papelbon when he is a free agent. They simply don’t believe the market correctly prices closers and they are right in most cases. With the upcoming off-season arbitration deal looming and Pap looking to set a record for closer arbitration deals (as he just did) the Red Sox are left to choose between his skill level at the cost of next season’s arbitration deal plus two draft picks after 2011 or moving him this season while his value is still high (assuming his arbitration case results in at least a near record deal, he would become somewhat expensive to some teams)

    With his struggles, their ability to land a catcher, multiple bullpen arms or an outfielder is significantly reduced. The effect is even greater if you consider that packaging Papelbon with Lowell might be the best option for moving their excess infielder. The difference between Bard and Papelbon would be mediated by the team’s improvement from a deal. To me, this is the best course of action for Boston in the coming months.

    Comment by Matt S. — June 25, 2010 @ 12:09 am

  16. Hold on, you’re bitching about not judging Papelbon because of sample size, and then talk about Bard’s L/R split on the season as being predictive? Are you shitting me?

    Comment by Rich — June 25, 2010 @ 1:52 am

  17. Didn’t Bard blow a save in the 9th against the Indians when Papelbon was on bereavement leave. Getting guys out in the 9th in a close game is a different animal. And Paps has only blown 2 saves since last July, not including the post season.

    Actually, make that 3 now.

    I wonder if the summer high altitude Coors effect reduced the movement on his pitches. He went from 93-94 on Wednesday to 95-97 Thursday. ????

    Obviously, if it continues elsewhere I will be a bit more concerned. Also, we don’t exactly know what that bereavement leave was all about, so could be something of a personal nature distracting him.

    That said, he is on something that looks like a downward slope the past couple of year, no doubt about it, but he has been effective in terms of final outcome, and I wonder if he is just saving his arm for the big payday he hopes to get after next year. Unless his arm is hurt, I look for a big 2nd half and a big contract year next year.

    Right now the numbers are not conclusive either way. All you can do is let results show the way. A few more blown saves in a short period, or a few strong outings following this one will determine if Bard gets his shot earlier or later.

    Comment by pft — June 25, 2010 @ 3:26 am

  18. “Didn’t Bard blow a save in the 9th against the Indians when Papelbon was on bereavement leave. Getting guys out in the 9th in a close game is a different animal. And Paps has only blown 2 saves since last July, not including the post season.”

    How do people like pft find this site?

    Comment by Joseph — June 25, 2010 @ 7:45 am

  19. Papelbon’s DBOR (douchebag over replacement level) is still tops in the majors.

    Comment by Steve — June 25, 2010 @ 8:36 am

  20. He did, but it was a game where they went up in the 8th before, while losing. I think not being an everyday closer didn’t have Bard ready for this situation. If he transitions into the job, there will be a learning curve, but I think he will excel. As much as I dislike Paplebon, I am not sure Bard is 100% ready, I think they should hand the job to Bard opening day of 2011.

    Comment by Mike — June 25, 2010 @ 9:37 am

  21. Are you including the blown save in the playoffs?

    and the numbers are conclusive.

    Comment by Mike — June 25, 2010 @ 9:38 am

  22. Hey, if you guys want to keep reading articles here, or anywhere, how the hell are you going to write about things in June without using small sample sizes. Not even 50% done yet with the season. Gotta write what you can.

    With that said I do think Papelbon is slipping. Why is anyone’s guess, but three year trend (including 2010) is disturbing. 9.63 K/BB in 2008, with 10k/9 and a little over 1 bb/9. Last year the walks crept in while the K’s stayed the same. This year the walks are still there and the K’s have slipped.

    He’s also historically gotten away with being a extreme FB pitcher with HR/FB well below 10%, this year fortune has swung back the other way (12.5%)

    Also interesting to me, what the hell is Paps throwing up there this year (7.2% unknown pitches and 15.7% Splits) Almost a quarter of his pitches are not the FB/Slider combo that’s worked for him. FB velocity seems to be steady, I’d wonder why he’s not throwing more FB. I mean, I guess because it looks like he’s been having the FB beat up this year, when in the past it’s been a ++ pitch. Zone Contact % up to 87% (career 82%) and run value way down to the negative so my guess is he’s just gotten hit hard a few times too many with the fastball and has become less confident in the pitch. Maybe V-Mart calls a much different game than Tek. Who knows?

    On the other end though, he’s only given up runs in 7 of his appearences , but 4 of those were for multiple runs, so his overall 3.98 ERA is a little less scary then it looks, to me at least.

    For you fantasy guys, I wouldn’t cut bait on him yet, or get hosed into selling low. His ERA wont be sitting at 4 come October.

    Maybe he’s working on a new pitch? Anyone know anything about that?

    Comment by fothead — June 25, 2010 @ 9:45 am

  23. “his overall 3.98 ERA is a little less scary then it looks”

    Not when you look at his 5.13 FIP and 4.74 xFIP

    Comment by Zack — June 25, 2010 @ 9:56 am

  24. I think the FB value trend says it all. Past 5 years:


    The cheese just isn’t getting it done like it used to.

    Comment by Pete — June 25, 2010 @ 10:27 am

  25. My point wasn’t that 78 batters is a good sample; in fact my point was the opposite. Obviously, Papelbon has a good history against left-handed hitters. I would expect him to revert to form.

    What I’m saying is that if someone who’s demonstrated skill in this area (Papelbon) can post poor numbers vs. LHB in a season and a half, then by definition we can’t read any more into Bard’s career stats vs. LHB than we read into Papelbon’s 2009/2010 stats. In other words, I’m using Papelbon’s 2009-10 as proof that the sample is too small.

    Comment by scottj27 — June 25, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  26. Yeah… this was kind of a disappointing post. Definitely some holes in the logic used here.

    FWIW– according to, Bard was actually more effective against leftys than rightys across the board– better K rate BB rate and HR rate– during his minor league career. Now, there are a few possible explanations for that, and we probably shouldn’t expect that the be the case throughout his big-league career, but saying Bard cannot be trusted against LH batters based on such a small sample is totally unfair, espcially when you consider he’s had success against them in the past.

    Comment by Virgil Pryor — June 25, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  27. Yeah that’s what I don’t quite get here– all of his peripherals are worse than his career rates this year. And his K rate has taken a dramatic dip, dramatic enough that I don’t think you can just point to his SwStr% and say he’ll get back to striking out something like 10 batters per nine innings.

    Without his best fastball, Papelbon just isn’t the same pitcher. I’m not disagreeing with the main argument here, that Papelbon should remain in the closer role, but ignoring his FIP and xFIP doesn’t do you any good in trying to make your point.

    Comment by Virgil Pryor — June 25, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

  28. Well my point was more geared toward fantasy-usage, and “to me at least” would tell you that it’s only my opinion.

    Comment by fothead — June 25, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  29. Bard has given up 8 hits in 20.1 IP against left handers this season. Their OPS against him is below .400.

    Still think he struggles against lefties?

    Comment by OBP — June 25, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

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