I broke down the decade's best hitting performances on Monday, but now we turn our attention to the 'pen.
This was a little trickier. First, there had to be qualification standards. Relievers must have had at least 50 innings pitched with the Red Sox in that season. I figured 50 is a solid number, any less and we might have some skewed results.
Also, all relievers were eligible -- from long-relievers to setup men to closers. Even LOOGYs, if they can hit the 50 inning minimum.
The biggest thing to figure out was what stat I would use to rank seasons by. I decided on FIP, because it's one of the best stats to judge the actual performance of the pitcher. I debated ERA+, but that revolves around ERA too much. So just like using wOBA with the hitters, people might complain about FIP, but I'm going to use it anyway. So there.
Here's the top 10, in descending order.10. Manny Delcarmen - 2008 (3.32 FIP)
74.1 ip, 3.27 era, 1.17 whip, 2.57 so/bb
Maybe you're surprised to see Manny D on this list? Well get used to it because he fills two of the top 10 slots. His 2008 was pretty solid, though. He struck out almost one batter per inning and allowed only 6.7 hits per nine innings. As bad as 2009 was for Manny D, his 2008 was pretty solid and we need to remember that heading into 2010.
9. Byung-Hyun Kim - 2003 (3.26 FIP)
79.1 ip, 3.18 era, 1.10 whip, 3.83 so/bb
Yes, BHK makes this list. If you remember, he was pretty solid before his blow up in 2004. He saved 16 games in 2003 after the Red Sox acquired him from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He started five games for the Sox in this season, but I figured I'd count his season toward this list. At least for the time, he was a good pickup for Theo Epstein. It didn't last long, but he did provide at least some value.
8. Keith Foulke - 2004 (3.16 FIP)
83 ip, 2.17 era, 0.94 whip, 5.27 so/bb
After BHK came this guy. Foulke was the missing piece going into 2004. The Red Sox needed a closer and they got one in Foulke. Foulke really had a great season, striking out nearly one batter every inning and walking just 15 batters on the season. Foulke's 225 ERA+ in 2004 was the best of his career. Like Kim, though, his success really only lasted one season.
7. Jonathan Papelbon - 2009 (3.05 FIP)
68 ip, 1.85 era, 1.14 whip, 3.17 so/bb
Papelbon's name lands on this list for the first time at No. 7 -- and believe it or not, this is his worst full season with the Red Sox. Of course, compared to most players, it's a great season. But compared to what he did from 2006-2008, it's just not as good. Papelbon walked a career-high 24 batters this season.
6. Derek Lowe - 2000 (3.05 FIP)
91.1 ip, 2.56 era, 1.22 whip, 3.59 so/bb
The first, and only, appearance from Mr. D-Lowe from his stint when he was a reliever. Lowe was pretty good in 2000, despite being extremely overworked. He worked more than 91 innings, but appeared in just 74 games. He led the league in saves (42) and games finished, with 64. (And as bad as this was, in 1999 he worked 18 more innings in the same amount of games. Way to be, D-Lowe.)
5. Manny Delcarmen - 2006 (3.02 FIP)
53.1 ip, 5.06 era, 1.59 whip, 2.65 so/bb
This is where it just gets weird. Manny D's 3.02 FIP in 2006 was fantastic -- but all his other numbers were quite atrocious. What does this say about Manny? The defense really kind of screwed him. Have no fear, I have a post planned for the future breaking down all of Manny D's 2006 season. Why? Because it's too interesting to not take a deeper look.
4. Mike Timlin - 2005 (2.70 FIP)
80.1 ip, 2.24 era, 1.32 whip, 2.95 so/bb
An old friend makes an appearance at No. 4. Timlin's solid season is made even more impressive considering he made a league-high 81 appearances. He was worked to the bone, but he stayed consistent. Timlin would have only one more really good season (2007), but in 2006 and 2008 he just couldn't produce. He was great out of the bullpen while he lasted. I definitely miss the camouflage undershirts.
3. Jonathan Papelbon - 2007 (2.45 FIP)
2. Jonathan Papelbon - 2006 (2.14 FIP)
1. Jonathan Papelbon - 2008 (2.01 FIP)
2007: 58.1 ip, 1.85 era, 0.77 whip, 5.60 so/bb
2006: 68.1 ip, 0.92 era, 0.77 whip, 5.77 so/bb
2008: 69.1 ip, 2.34 era, 0.95 whip, 9.63 so/bb
I figured I'd just make this easy and clump the last three together. All Paps. All the time. There are few differences between all these seasons, and any one could really be at the top, but let's just come to the conclusion that Papelbon knows how to pitch. Over these three seasons, Papelbon pitched 196 innings, struck out 236, allowed 37 runs and walked just 36. All while saving 113 games. Even his 2009 wasn't bad, as evidence from No. 7. So yes, Papelbon's four full seasons are four of the top 10 relief performances of the decade. That is real.
He's kind of a big deal, huh?