Saturday, September 15, 2007

4/6/07, Papelbon OK to go in 8th--Bill James theory agrees

From MLB.com article 4/06/07 by Ian Browne
  • Notes: "Papelbon Could Pitch in 8th--Francona won't hesitate to use reliever if team gets in jam."
ARLINGTON -- "While making it perfectly clear that he is going to be mindful about Jonathan Papelbon's usage this season, Red Sox manager Terry Francona indicated that the eighth inning will not be off limits for his closer.

In fact, Francona said that there could be occasions when he'd rather have Papelbon rescue the team from a sticky jam in the eighth, even if it means going to one of his other relievers for last call.

  • "Obviously we're not going to over-use him," said Francona. "And we've talked about managing him better. But for me, still, that last out in the eighth is maybe the most important out of the game. We don't want to sit around until the ninth and have a tie game."

In essence, what Francona believes in to a degree is the Bill James theory that the most important outs aren't necessarily in the ninth inning.

  • "If we need to get him in the eighth to get out [of a jam], and even if for some reason, I was uncomfortable pitching him in the ninth ... you don't want to lose the game that early when you have a weapon that valuable down there," said Francona. "That will be a lot easier to do once [Mike] Timlin comes back, because he's used to maybe pitching a clean ninth. We have guys who can do it, but not guys who are used to doing it."

Papelbon certainly didn't have any over-use when the Red Sox broke him out for his first save situation in the ninth inning of Thursday's game. He didn't pitch in the first two games, and was working on six days of rest.

There was no rust, however, as Papelbon preserved Daisuske Matsuzaka's first Major League win with a 1-2-3 inning, two of the outs coming on strikeouts."

  • Several baseball opinion leaders today said Papelbon's problem must've been the 8th inning use. (NY Times, 2 NY Daily News writers). According to this article from back in April, the Red Sox with all their experience and skill judged the 8th inning not to be a problem and possibly a necessity. (sm)

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