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Papelbon for the Cy Young? Er, no. Not a chance.

Sep 15, 2009, 8:50 AM EDT

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)

  1. Pilothawkeye - Sep 15, 2009 at 9:29 AM

    Mariano is still the premier reliever in all of baseball. Papelbon needs to take some humility lessons from “Mo”. While Papelbon keeps puffing his chest out, Mo lets his pitching talk for him. As he said in an interview after the All-Star game, Mo said: “I don’t talk about me, I let others talk about me”. A guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famer. Papelbon needs to go a long way before he can even think of filling Maiano’s shoes.

  2. Brian S - Sep 15, 2009 at 9:43 AM

    I’m a life-long Red Sox fan, but I agree with this article, although not with your one about Rivera. With the lack of a truly dominant starter in the AL this year, this is the year Rivera should finally get his Cy Young. As much as I love to see the Sox beat him on the rare occasions when they do, he’s been the best for a long time, and hasn’t lost anything yet. This should be his year.

  3. Alex K - Sep 15, 2009 at 9:50 AM

    Brian S- No truly dominant starter in the AL this year? I’m going to have to disagree. Zack Greinke has been as dominant as a pitcher can be. He may not have the win totals, but he can’t help it his team stinks. Felix Hernandez has been pretty awesome too. And that’s before you look at Lester and Halladay, who have both been really really good.

  4. Jeremy - Sep 15, 2009 at 9:53 AM

    I’d agree on Greinke. Regardless of the wins, his numbers as a starter (what he can control) are amazing. Historically no pitcher with his stats has had such a poor record in MLB history.
    As a sox fan, touting Pap for a CyYoung is a joke, the fans of Boston know that there’s no reason to even think that.
    And as for Mo, he’s had years and years of playing to humble him, including blowing big games. Pap has yet to have that crushing defeat to humble him.

  5. mike - Sep 15, 2009 at 10:23 AM

    Let us know when “Pap” ever comes remotely close this:
    *Lowest postseason ERA of all-time (0.81)
    *Most postseason saves of all-time (34)
    *Lowest career ERA of closers in top 50 of career saves (2.30) (as of August 6, 2006)
    *Second-best save conversion percentage of closers with at least 150 saves (88%) (as of 2006)
    *Only 2nd closer in history to record 40 saves in 6 different seasons
    *4th all-time in career saves (407), 2nd all-time among active pitchers (as of August 6, 2006) *
    *One of 5 pitchers to record 300 saves with one team, and the second to record 400 with one team
    *One of only 8 pitchers to record at least 50 saves in a season
    *One of 2 pitchers to record at least 50 saves in two separate seasons
    *Holds record for 34 consecutive scoreless innings pitched in postseason
    *Holds record for converting 23 consecutive postseason saves
    *Recorded 12 two-inning saves in the postseason, twice as many as the next player on the list.
    *Most saves in World Series play (9)
    *Only reliever to win ALCS MVP (2003) and World Series MVP (1999) awards
    *Most seasons with 20-plus saves and sub-2.00 ERA (6)
    *8-time All-Star (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006)
    *4-time World Series champion (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000)
    *Most strikeouts by a Yankee reliever in single season (130)
    *Most appearances in postseason history (72)
    *Yankees’ all-time leader in WHIP (1.04), saves (405), and appearances (704) (as of July 30, 2006)
    *Named the relief pitcher on Major League Baseball’s Latino Legends Team
    *Finished 3rd in voting for American League Cy Young Award in 1996, 1999 , 2004; finished 2nd in 2005.
    *Only 2nd pitcher since 1997 to finish in top 10 in voting for American League Most Valuable Player Award (2004, 2005 – 9th place)
    *Only 2nd pitcher to save 3 All-Star Games (1997, 2005, 2006)
    *Only pitcher to close out 3 World Series

  6. planktonDisciple - Sep 15, 2009 at 10:31 AM

    @Jeremy “Historically no pitcher with his stats has had such a poor record in MLB history.”
    Short memory dude.
    Clemens 2005 with Houston
    32 starts 211 1/3 innings pitched 1.87 era 13-8 w-l led league in era by far, one run better than Cy Young winner. Led league in hits per 9 innings pitched at 6.4.
    Nobody thought he was juiced at the time AND he led in era and hits per 9 innings.

  7. kathy rodriguez - Sep 15, 2009 at 10:31 AM

    i am a also a member of red sox nation i love papelbon! if any of you lowlife newyork fans or else where dont like it bite the big one!

  8. Reggie - Sep 15, 2009 at 10:39 AM

    I hate the argument that if Greinke was on a better team he’d have more wins. Maybe if Rivera was on a lesser team he’d have 50 saves. You can’t let the team have an impact on the voting. I’m not ready to annoint anyone the Cy Young yet but I don’t see how you can discount Rivera.

  9. BSelig - Sep 15, 2009 at 10:47 AM

    Any discussion that involves the words Papelbon and Cy Young in the same sentence shouldn’t even come up! Aside from his lackluster stats, let’s not forget his poor attitude, super inflated ego and loud mouth. The cy young should only go to someone who starts, is the leader in the major stats (and in the locker room), and has at least an OUNCE of class. The bum from Baton Rouge should only get what he deserves, an injury.

  10. mike - Sep 15, 2009 at 10:47 AM

    Kathy its not about who you love or don’t love or how big a fan you are its just plain facts and stats. Pap doesn’t come close to filling Mo’s jock strap, end of story!

  11. Jeremy - Sep 15, 2009 at 10:52 AM

    Yep, you’re right, sorry, it was in an article I read. Clemens did beat out Greinke for ERA/WHIP, but Greinke currently has more Complete games and strikeouts. Either way Greinke his amazing numbers right now.
    Who got the Cy Young that year?
    And as for all those stats thrown out about Rivera, give Pap as long as a career as he has had and we’ll see. such as
    – Most post season saves of all time – Guess what, Pap hasn’t even had that many save opportunities in the post season. It’s hard to earn a record when you’re not given the chance.
    – Most seasons with 20+ saves and ERA less then 2- again, Pap has been around how long?
    – Named reliever on the Latino Legends team – If Pap made the Latino team I’d be confused.
    You’re quoting records that show to the longevity of his career while Pap is still in the beginning of his. Let’s compare these records when Pap has made it that long in his career. (again, I’m not taking anything away from Mo, nor do I think I was when I originally posted)

  12. pinstripesrule - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:02 AM

    Hey Kathy – Lowlife newyork fans? (By the way, New York is actually 2 words!- Nice Grammar!) Red Sox fans have become us – except for 21 or so Rings! (NY 26, BOS 5 – 2 since 1912)You now also think it is ordained that you will win, and now buy your players too! Look at the standings! 7.5 games back as of today! In fact, the only reason Boston is even in the wild card picture is thanks to the annual Texas nosedive! Papelbon is a great pitcher, but he has not been the same this year – look at the numbers, if you can read. He has been inconsistent most of the year, chest thumping or not!

  13. Jeremy - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:05 AM

    I figure that the only true way to compare Mo to Pap is to look at their first years as a true closer. (since career stats will go to someone who has a longer career, Mo). So Pap from 06-09, Mo from 97-00
    Mo – 97-00 (first 4 years as a strict closer)
    ERA – 2.12
    Saves – 160 (97/98 opportunities not kept as stat)
    Ks – 214
    Pap – 06-09 (first 4 years as a strict closer)
    ERA – 1.75
    Saves – 149/166
    Ks – 307
    I think they have very similar starts to their career, if Pap keeps it up he will rival Mo in the long run.
    Either way, there are better starting pitchers then both of them up there for the Cy Young.

  14. Craig Calcaterra - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:06 AM

    Folks, I have edited a couple of comments and delted one as well. Comments that include (a) abusive or harassing language; or (b)otheriwse contain racist, sexist, homophobic garbage will not be tolerated.
    Fight all you want. Just attempt to be civil about it.

  15. ecp - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:08 AM

    Chris Carpenter won the NL CY in 2005.
    For a historically bad W-L record with great stats to back it up, also see Nolan Ryan in 1987 with Houston. 211.2 IP, 2.76 ERA, 270 Ks, 142 ERA+. And a W-L record of 8-16. Truly awful run support.

  16. Jeremy - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:15 AM

    Dang, tough luck for Ryan. I think the stats that I was thinking about were deff based on the complete games (6 complete games for Greinke this year) and WHIP. He’s close to Clemens for that but the ERA is better for Clemens. Tough break for both of em. I hope that Greinke being up there in ERA/K’s/Complete games/Shut outs will give him good reason for Cy Young. Any way to look up the run support for him this year, and compare it to other pitchers?

  17. mike o - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:16 AM

    nice one kathy – you’re a real classic, intelligent red sox fan – thanks for bringing something to the table in this discussion.

  18. Deb - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:24 AM

    Mike, brilliant!! I’ve been privileged to see Mariano pitch for his entire career – now I have the stats to go with the great memories. Hopefully there are more to come this post-season. Thanks again!!

  19. Deb - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:30 AM

    Kathy, I love your passion. Do you really need to bad mouth New York fans. “Bit the big one” … catch you in the school yard at recess!!??!!

  20. ecp - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:39 AM

    Run support from ESPN, minimum 120 IP:
    Baseball Reference figures it a little differently, but by anybody’s measure Greinke has the lowest in the majors by a fair country mile.

  21. Jeremy - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:47 AM

    Thanks for the link. That’s painful, almost a full run less per game then any other pitcher in the American League?

  22. planktonDisciple - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:49 AM

    Yes Carpenter won in 2005 with a 21-5 record and an era of 2.83. If Clemens pitched for the Cards and Carpenter for Houston, Clemens would have won the Cy Young. The award is supposed to go for the best pitcher. w-l is more of a team stat. The best pitcher is the best pitcher. Right now, Greinke is the best pitcher.
    w-l is way over weighted in Cy Young voting. Let the the non-pitcher players vote and I bet Greinke is the winner. The best starter is the one hardest to get a hit off of and hardest to score on. Leading in era and whip means you are the best pitcher.

  23. pinstripesrule - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:55 AM

    Sorry Craig, I realize I crossed that line with the “kitchen” comment. I was just replying to the “bite the big one” post.

  24. peter - Sep 15, 2009 at 12:16 PM

    mike –
    no offense friend, but please…
    mo has stunning lifetime stats and no one could argue he doesn’t.
    that said, you can’t argue that his lifetime achievements entitle him to this year’s cy award. this years stats along can determine that. mo’s is no better a candidate for it than pap this year. NEITHER should be a candidate this year.
    and, before you start dissing on pap, take a look at mo’s first 5 years versus pap’s first 5 (which includes this year).
    Pap 2005-2009
    2.65 ERA with 9.0K/9 and 0 saves (pap was a starter 1st year)
    0.92 ERA with 9.9k/9 and 35 saves
    1.85 ERA with 13.0k/9 and 37 saves
    2.34 ERA with 10.0k/9 and 41 saves
    1.89 ERA with 10.3k/9 and 36 saves (so far this season)
    Mo 1995-1999
    5.51 ERA with 6.9k/9 and 0 saves (set up man 1st year)
    2.09 ERA with 10.9k/9 and 5 saves (set up man 2nd year)
    1.88 ERA with 8.5k/9 and 43 saves
    1.91 ERA with 5.3k/0 and 36 saves
    1.83 ERA with 6.8k/9 and 45 saves
    further, you talk about mo’s post season stats. what about the fact that pap hasn’t given up a single run in the post season?
    i don’t think you can find a single red sox fan out there who would argue against how great mo has been and still is. why can’t you see that pap is right there with him? give him another 10 years and then let’s compare lifetime achievements.
    My prediction for this year:
    ** St Louis against either Red Sox or Yankees.
    ** AL will win the WS in 6 or less games.
    Go Sox!

  25. 26flying - Sep 15, 2009 at 12:20 PM

    the place where the author admits that Papelbon has FINALLY arrived (i.e., “clean”, non-heart-attack-inducing saves) in the last month is where Mo has been almost the entire season (hint to this joker “reporter”: Mo leads MLB with 35 in a row saves, and only a single blown save VERY early in the season, when he was still recoverying from surgery)
    I’ve heard of “homer” sports reporters, but THIS guy is blind AND dumb to even hint that Papelbon in any way, shape, or form should even get a WHIFF of the Cy Young this year. I fear this guy will FURTHER embarass himself by actually casting his ballot for such a totally unworthy candidate as Papelbon

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