Jonathan Papelbon is no longer a Red Sock. After seven stellar seasons, the closer has left the
Regardless of the solution, replacing Papelbon will be missed. Since Paps became
The replacement level for any bullpen pitcher is a more complicated issue than for position players or starters. The recognized bullpen roles of closer, setup man, LOOGY, ROOGY, and long reliever or swing man are not positions in and of themselves. Lose a closer to injury mid-season and typically they are replaced by the setup man, while the next best arm in the pen takes on the eight inning duties and so on, down the line. To further complicate things, top pitching prospects often see time in the major league bullpen to gain valuable experience and limit their innings at a young age.
If that isn’t enough, there is the wild volatility that comes with relievers. Papelbon himself has had some wild fluctuations of late, with his FIP reaching an all-time high of 3.51 just last year and then dropping just as dramatically. A relief pitcher’s season typically consists of just one third the innings of a starter and they pitch in a wildly irregular pattern. All of this means that predicting future performance and narrowing down what it will take to replace any reliever is perilous.
Nonetheless, with Papelbon out of the picture,
The 2011 Red Sox featured very good bullpen. The pen held a 3.67 ERA overall, fourth best in the AL. Thanks to a starting staff that struggled to fill innings, they also pitched the second highest innings total in the league, 517.1 innings. The average
Those one extra innings took their toll. As good as
Signing a single player to replace Papelbon presents a problem. Paps has a better track record than any other available closer. However,
The remaining 1-1.5 wins
The Red Sox will be looking to acquire at least two starters this off-season and this is there best chance to replace Papelbon’s production. The 2011 bullpen produced 7.7 fWAR, the best in baseball. The starting pitching was less impressive with just 12.6 fWAR. In total the staff managed 20.3, Papelbon contributing 3 wins on his own. Of the six teams that topped
Jonathan Papelbon is an excellent pitcher and he will not be easy to replace. However, he is still a relief pitcher and as such, his value is unlikely to ever exceed its 2011 level.