The lack of any real playoff drama this year has led to a dramatic increase in the number of newspapers pimping their local boys for postseason hardware. The latest: Jonathan Papelbon:
His core numbers are excellent: a 1.89 ERA and 36 saves. But anyone who has watched him – or looked up how many hits and walks he was allowing – could tell that for much of the year, this wasn’t the same pitcher who shortened games for Boston from 2006 to 2008. Papelbon allowed nearly 1.5 baserunners per inning before the All-Star break, and many of his successful saves were roller-coaster rides of walks, hits, and then finally strikeouts.
That has changed over the past month. Papelbon is now pitching efficiently and effectively, backing up his excellent core numbers with shutdown, worry-free performances, like Sunday’s three-strikeout scoreless inning. Since the end of July, he has improved to the point where talking about whether he should be in the Cy Young mix isn’t that crazy after all.
Actually, it is crazy. Even if you were to set aside the argument that relief pitchers should almost never, ever win the Cy Young award because they simply don’t throw enough innings to provide the same value a good starting pitcher brings, something else stands in between Papelbon’s candidacy and sanity: Mariano Rivera. The same Mariano Rivera who has a lower ERA, more saves, has allowed far, far fewer baserunners, has better rate stats across the board, and has induced far fewer hear attacks among his fanbase than has Papelbon this season.
If, as I argued last week, Mariano Rivera is not worthy of the Cy Young Award, there is no logical argument whatsoever for Jonathan Papelbon. And I assume the writer of the linked piece knows it too, as he doesn’t even mention Rivera’s name in the article. If he had, the whole thing comes crashing down.
(link via BTF)
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.