Monday, March 26, 2007

Papelbon takes baseball writer (proud BBWAA member) to school

Jon Couture says in his column:

  • "Much has been made of Papelbon's usage, and an importance he be used only in the ninth a la Mariano Rivera, but the numbers don't necessarily bear out of a difference between the two. Among American League closers in 2006, Rivera made 17 multi-inning appearances, just one fewer than the 18 Papelbon made through his Sept. 1 shutdown."
"Much has been made..used only in the 9th a la Mariano Rivera."
  • Jon, I don't know where you or your associates in the BBWAA have been for the past 12 years, but Rivera first made his mark in late inning relief in the post season of 1995 with a 3 inning appearance in relief of John Wetteland. He pitched late inning setup throughout the regular and post season in 1996,
performing as full time closer from 1997 to the present. With Rivera's many multi-inning appearances as closer, HE has pioneered the way teams are trying to use closers today for more than 1 IP. (You get credit for looking up 2006's numbers which were apparently news to you, otherwise you wouldn't be writing about them).
  • In Rivera's 112.2 post season ip, 65% were multi-inning. You might recall his 3 consecutive scoreless innings for the Win in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, or 2 innings for the win in the 2004 ALDS deciding game in extra innings v the Twins. You want regular season, in the dead heat pennant race with your team the Red Sox? In Sept. 2005, he pitched 6 out of 8 days in desperate situations to help his team to the pennant.
  • In that stretch, 2 of the 6 games were more than 1IP, 5 OF THE 6 GAMES WERE 1-RUN GAMES. In case you're interested.
"Only Seattle's J.J. Putz (20) and Toronto's B.J. Ryan (19) made more multi-inning appearances. The average among AL closers was 14 for the season,"
  • In this "14" figure, are you including Rivera, Papelbon, Putz and Ryan, the leaders in multi-innings? To do so would render the stat meaningless in your context. If you EXcluded those 4 to reach the average among other AL closers, that WOULD be meaningful.
"...with the lowest numbers five (Detroit's Todd Jones and Minnesota's Joe Nathan), one by Cleveland's Bob Wickman and none by Akinori Otsuka of Texas."
  • Now, Couture uses the powerful baseball media's most common tool to trick you--trying to equate Mariano with their buddy Trevor. I understand Trevor's good, a nice guy, has many friends, etc. But if you take the time to look up the numbers, you'll see no comparison whatsoever between the 2. Here, Couture makes a statement for which I've been unable to find substantiation:

"Looking at pitch counts, Papelbon averaged only 15.1 pitches per inning in 2006. Among the 169 relievers who threw at least 40 innings, that ranked 152nd most. The only closers who were more efficient are the sort of names Papelbon's been throwing around as idols — Rivera and San Diego's Trevor Hoffman."

  • Countless media have reported Papelbon recently saying he'd like to follow in the footsteps of Mariano Rivera. I've looked all over, tried google, etc., and can find no reference to Papelbon comparing himself to Trevor Hoffman. Maybe Papelbon knows more than Jon Couture. In addition to 12 regular seasons of late inning relief in which among other things, Rivera gave up very few HR. How about the post season--don't you think Papelbon was thinking about that when he said he wants to go after records? Why would he mention Hoffman?
  • Rivera in 112.2 post season IP, gave up 2 HR (1/56 IP)
  • Hoffman in 13.0 post season IP, gave up 2 HR (1/6.5 IP)
I wish Mr. Couture had included quotes from Papelbon about the 'sort of names' he'd been throwing around other than Mariano Rivera. I couldn't find any. From SouthCoastToday.com, 3/25/07, Inside Baseball by Jon Couture. Couture is also listed as a Red Sox reporter for another newspaper.

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  • Susan --

    Hi. I'll be completely honest ... I'm not entirely following what has you so up in arms. Tackling your points as best I can:

    -- Papelbon has said previously, though he's backed off it in the last few days, that he doesn't think he should be used in multi-inning appearances like Rivera is increasingly not. The point of the statement is that Papelbon is wrong, and that Rivera is regularly used in multi-inning spots.

    -- When I say the average among AL closers for multi-inning appearances, I included all AL closers in the calculation. The full list, calculated by me is here: http://blogs.southcoasttoday.com/n/blogs/blog.aspx?nav=main&webtag=nbredsox&entry=22

    To me, finding the average would be all the multi-inning appearances diving by the 14 closers. If that's illogical, tell me why, because I'm genuinely curious. It wouldn't strike me to do it any other way, though the mean of the 14 is more or less the same number.

    -- Using ESPN's 2006 stat pages, among the stats they list are pitcher per inning. Sorting the splits to include only relievers who threw at least 40 innings is how I came by my data, which is cited both in the column and that same blog post.

    My point was that Papelbon wasn't so much overused in 2006 as he was unprepared for the load of a full season closing. I'm not trying to equate Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman beyond their both being recognizable closers who have stood the test of time. For Papelbon to be in that company drives home the kind of season he had last year.

    -- SouthCoastToday.com is the Web site for The Standard-Times. Same newspaper. Not all that important, but you brought it up.

    If anything, I'm clearly guilty of not being completely transparent and making assumptions about what information people already have at hand. Apologies.

    By all means, contact with me anything else you've got. I'm under no delusion I'm infalliable, and would be eager to hear anything else I'm screwing up.

    By Anonymous Jon Couture, at 10:33 AM  

  • Jon, thanks very much for commenting here about your article. On point #1, it's that you referenced being used only in the 9th inning a la Mariano. This was your statement, not Papelbon's. But you still get credit for what must've been a revelation to many of your readers, ie in 2006, the 2 had 17 & 18 multi-inning games respectively (Mo, Papelbon). Your comment that Mo is "increasingly not" being used in multi innings is not true. The NY Times noted this week that in 2006, Mo was used in a greater % of multi innings than he'd been since 2001, not less. Joe Torre has recently been quoted saying he'd only use Mo for 1Ip from now on, but the season hasn't started yet, and he's said this in other years. It may end up being true, but hasn't happened yet. On point 2, the avg. multi-IP by 14 closers, your choice to highlight the top 4, then throw them all back with the group of 14 wasn't inaccurate statistically, but it would've been more interesting to see the difference between the top 4 and the rest of the league. On point 3, you said 'the sort of names Papelbon's been throwing around as idols-Rivera and San Diego's Trevor Hoffman,' but I still see no substantiation for this from you. He's been quoted recently saying he wanted to follow in Mariano's footsteps,but none of the quotes I've seen (or that you allude to) mention anyone but Mariano. Considering Papelbon was talking about the kinds of records and accomplishments of Rivera, it wouldn't necessarily follow that he'd include Hoffman. Other than the longevity you refer to, their achievements are quite different. There are those who don't wish to see it that way,including perhaps yourself, but that's the reality of it. From your response, it seems Papelbon has not been throwing Hoffman's name around. Thanks again for taking the time to elaborate on your article (& the connection with the newspaper).

    By Blogger susan mullen, at 2:18 PM  

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