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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. NYguy - Sep 15, 2009 at 12:24 PM

    Kathy, calling people lowlifes only makes you look even lower to everyone. This is baseball rivalry, not the Shia versus the Sunni. We should all keep the perspective that games are meant for entertainmnent, not acrimony. Our rivalry is what helps keep the game exciting. When the game starts we should all cheer our team to win. When the game ends we should shake hands and go home to our families. I, for one, love the rivalry, but I just hate the animosity. It takes all the fun out of the beauty in out ‘national’ game.

  2. GimmeSomeSteel - Sep 15, 2009 at 12:43 PM

    Wow, do I loathe the Yankees, and therefore I’ve always taken the side of the Red Sox against them.
    That said, I agree that this is Rivera’s year. The guy is amazing, plus he has all the class the Yankees pretend to have. he goes out, does the job without fuss, and lets others talk.
    Papelbon is better copy, Rivera is the better pitcher, and that has nothing to do with their respective uniforms.

  3. planktonDisciple - Sep 15, 2009 at 12:43 PM

    Kathy is a Yankees fan hired by Steinbrenner.
    Yes both sides of this rivalry should have their homes robbed while they are at the game.

  4. James - Sep 15, 2009 at 12:44 PM

    I don’t have a problem with the idea that Papelbon doesn’t deserve the CY or that Riviera has had the better season or (obviously due to longevity) the better career. But the negative undercurrent on Papelbon is ridiculous — this guy has had a fabulous career so far, has had another excellent season this year, and maybe in the long run he will challenge Riviera’s career. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water merely because Papelobon doesn’t deserve to win the Cy this year

  5. Wil - Sep 15, 2009 at 12:44 PM

    You are a charmer. Perhaps you can spend some time in finishing school rather than the tattoo parlor. You should also spend more time reviewing facts and watching baseball.

  6. Chris G - Sep 15, 2009 at 12:46 PM

    Kathy, Up until your post no one had sounded like a “lowlife.” What your commentary has to do with the article and the conversation is known only to you. By declaring you are a member of “Red Sox Nation” you only demean that august group.

  7. Chris G - Sep 15, 2009 at 12:48 PM

    Kathy, Up until your post no one had sounded like a “lowlife.” What your commentary has to do with the article and the conversation is known only to you. By declaring you are a member of “Red Sox Nation” you only demean that august group.

  8. kate - Sep 15, 2009 at 1:02 PM

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with rooting for your team and your players with such fervor and faith. That being said, any true fan of the game should also be big enough to admit when someone is clearly playing better baseball.
    Pap is one hell of a closer. That being said, Rivera’s return to his renaissance years deserves a nod.
    Greinke has pitched superbly for the most part, yet has faltered more than a Cy Young candidate should. The same goes for Halliday. In both cases, the slip ups can be excused, between Kansas City playing poor ball and Toronto dangling Halliday as a carrot in front of every other team in the game. Lester has been stellar, and has been a life preserver for Boston in late July and August. Jon Lester is the only other deserving Cy Young candidate this season. I’m a Yankees fan, and I will totally admit that Jon Lester is almost more deserving. More innings, more outs, and more support for a team that needed him to be better than the best.
    May the truly best man win.

  9. NYguy - Sep 15, 2009 at 1:07 PM

    peter, they are both very good, but we cannot compare the first 5 years and give Papelbon equal credit. The statisitics for Rivera continue to remain stable until today. There is a difference in style and mentality between these two great players.
    Mariano is not imposing. The variety and velocity of his pitches has been fairly consistent over the years. Though he gets his share of strikeouts, it is due to wiles and not strength. He is calm and self-deprecating. He loves being a Yankee and has always wished to keep it that way. He has tasted difficult loss and come back just as determined.
    Papelbon is a big and scary man. He throws hard and gets many strikeouts. He is very animated, confident, emotional, and sometimes speaks too much for his own good, especially about himself. Everyone knows he stated publicly he has no problem leaving Boston for greener pastures. He has not yet tasted the bitter defeats of Rivera, so the jury is still out on the damage it may or may not bring his ego.
    Can Papelbon throw with that velocity for ten more years?
    Can he adapt to be a pitcher instead of a thrower mentally?
    Will he be a Red Sox player for 10 more years?
    Will his ego allow him to acccept a lesser role if asked?
    Will he be injury-free as big men tend to injure easily with age?
    These questions can only be answered with time. He certainly has the skill and determination to match Rivera. We shall see.

  10. NYguy - Sep 15, 2009 at 1:16 PM

    “Kathy is a Yankees fan hired by Steinbrenner.
    Yes both sides of this rivalry should have their homes robbed while they are at the game.”
    Wow, you sure are smart. I did not see the relevancy to the story your post had to offer. It is brilliant, poignant, and so avant garde. Please, post your empirical data that proves your sophmoric mumblings to be true. I did not know the sixth grade dismissed at 1 PM. What did the plankton say to the amoeba? Let’s share a cell together!

  11. Bobby Townsend - Sep 15, 2009 at 1:38 PM

    Rivera is by far the winner since right now there really is no dominant starter in the American League. But with about three weeks to go any starters have about 4 or 5 starts left, keep an eye on Greinke, Hernandez (looked very impressive in beating Texas on Sunday), Sabathia (now with 17 wins) Verlander (bad last outing but still in the hunt)
    As for Lester, he gets hurt by too many shaky outings early in the season. He was 3-5 with a 6.07 ERA in his first ten starts.
    He still has an outside shot but with about four starts left, he has to continue to pitch the way he has recently.

  12. steve - Sep 15, 2009 at 1:49 PM

    come on folks…mo rivera has been doing this for over 10 years…lets see where pap is…there is no comparison, it goes beyond the numbers, rivera is a one of a kind that appear rarely, there is no equal, period, not pap or anyone else. lets face it, unless you are a diehard nation fan, pap is annoying…

  13. Nigel - Sep 15, 2009 at 1:58 PM

    When has Mariano Rivera ever been cocky? You make it sound as if he was cocky prior to 2004. Come on dude, Papelbum is a jerk, Mariano is not. Even you know this.

  14. Bobby Townsend - Sep 15, 2009 at 2:16 PM

    Steve, Lets not go off the path here. The question is about the Cy-Young Award for 2009, not who did what back in 2004 or before.
    There is a strong case for Mariano right now (40 for 41 save opportunites) Pap (36 for 39) I was very straight forward about that in my earlier post.
    Ooooppp forgot about Halladay but he would have to beat the Yankees tonight to stay in contention. He 1-hit them the last time he faced him but today is another day

  15. peter - Sep 15, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    NYguy – i think it is very reasonable to only compare their first 5 years and not more. at the end of each of their careers it will be safe to compare them across their careers but for now we can only compare what we can compare.

  16. steve - Sep 15, 2009 at 2:52 PM

    if a relief pitcher is to be considered for 2009 it’s mo at the moment. his stats are great. pap’s are very good in 2009, but not as good as mo’s.
    it is a whole other argument on relief pitchers v. starters on cy young award consideration. it is difficult for a relief pitcher to overcome a 20 game winner with a low era…but this may be that year and if it is, until mo collaspes in the last 2 weeks he should be considered.
    the conversation has been toying with lifetime comparisions between mo and pap and my earlier post was in response to those comments…here i draw a line. when pap puts 12 years together as mo has then there is a discussion. right now, mo has no equal. lets face it, may in boston are tired of pap’s antic’s and he has not been lights out this year. look at baserunner (walks + hits to innings) ratio…he has been too “exciting” in the 9th inning…

  17. Andy Cotto - Sep 15, 2009 at 3:21 PM

    Also ONLY relief pitcher to BLOW A GAME 7 (2001 Diamondbacks) and BLOW SAVE AGAINST RIVAL IN AL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (2004 Red Sox)
    Sorry, could’nt resist. When he’s won, he has won big; but two of his losses were HUGE! Don’t try to deny it…you can only take the position of apologist when it comes to those HISTORIC blown saves.

  18. Will - Sep 15, 2009 at 4:07 PM

    Um…this years stats aren’t close. Mo has been the much better closer this year. This is largely due to the fact that save for the early season when he was recovering from surgery, Mo has been consistent great from about the beginning of may onword. Whereas Paps has been all over the board, resulting in a poor WHIP for a closer, though is other stats are still good.
    Note, this is not to say that Paps is not a great closer. He is one of the best, and given another 10 or so years he may be equal to Mo. But then again Gagne was supposed to be the greatest ever after his first few years and he flamed out. So, you never really know how long a closers shelf life is. Part of Mo’s greatest is not only the dominance but the length of the dominence. Maybe Pap gets there. Maybe not. Time will tell.

  19. jeff - Sep 15, 2009 at 4:16 PM

    It’s all a moot point – relief pitchers do not deserve the Cy Young – end of story. The rest is all blah blah blah, blah-blah, blah-blah!

  20. Steve - Sep 15, 2009 at 4:21 PM


  21. HOTROD - Sep 15, 2009 at 4:21 PM

    Kathy, u have a BIG one, that is scary…….AND I WILL NOT BE BITING ON IT EITHER…..

  22. NYguy - Sep 15, 2009 at 4:25 PM

    There is a difference in your right to believe and what is actually right. Comparing the 5 years is not very reasonable. It is just a benchmark to evaluate progress. The old stock market caveat, “Yesterday’s results do not guarantee tomorrow’s success,” must be heeded. Rivera is nearing the end of his career and is still effective. He will go to the HOF, regardless of our team affiliations. Papelbon has many more years to match that effectiveness. I did say he has the ability, but he still has to earn his place. He has had a terrific 5 years. Will we say the same after 15 years? Only time can answer that question.

  23. HOTROD - Sep 15, 2009 at 4:34 PM


  24. HOTROD - Sep 15, 2009 at 4:38 PM


  25. JasonR - Sep 15, 2009 at 5:03 PM

    What separates Rivera from every closer is his longevity, which is only matched by Trevor Hoffman, his work in the postseason, and his ability to bounce back from blown saves that would crush other closers (look at Brad Lidge).
    People bring up those losses against the Indians, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox. But Rivera’s failures in the postseason are magnified because it’s Rivera. He’s certainly not the only closer to blow a save in the playoffs or the World Series. What makes those wins by the Indians, D-Backs, and Red Sox so legendary is because it happened against Rivera, a guy who deservedly has the reputation of the greatest closer of all time. If those teams did the same thing against Mark Wohlers or John Franco, it’s not so impressive (not taking anything away from those guys).
    Mo is pushing 40 and, statistically, he’s as good as he’s ever been. He doesn’t throw the cutter at 95-96 anymore but he’s made up for that by being able to place the pitch anywhere he wants to on the plate.
    Papelbon is good, but despite his stats, his apppearances are an adventure and this year he hasn’t been the lock down pitcher that Rivera was at his age or at 39 years old. I’m not saying he can’t do it, but he has a long way to go before he reaches Rivera/Hoffman status.

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