Monday, March 26, 2007

The Return of Closer Boy

Ever since it was reported on ESPN (and the Breaking Sox News Blog) that Jonathan Papelbon would be returning to the closer role, there has been much discourse and speculation about the situation. Wasn't it supposed to be better for JP from a health standpoint to be a starter? Was this decision made because of the current team's lack of a viable closer of the non-Papelbonian variety? Was it because Tito wants JP to keep the 4402 duck carcasses in the bullpen, as opposed to in the dugout?

We've had various Sox players, various media types, bloggers, and other randoms weigh in on the situation. Surprisingly, even the typically laconic Curt Schilling had some comments on the matter. My favorite contributor, besides Papelbon himself, would have to be PapelMOM.

But there is one side to the decision that I don't believe has yet been satisfactorily examined.
The ramifications of the move of Julian Tavarez to the starting rotation. When I think of what kind of contributions I expect from each player, I think of what each player symbolizes to me. Varitek=Leadership.
When I think of what I want from Tavarez, one thought jumps out at me. I want the SHENANIGANS. The Batshit Craziness. The Sox need a major contribution from Tavarez if they expect to do well in the Random Acts of Senseless Standings. I'm just not sure that the Sox are putting Julian in the best position to help in the area where he can best contribute.

First off, Julian is more comfortable as a starter. If there's anything we don't want it's for Julian to be comfortable. Then there's less of a chance he'll randomly bodyslam an umpire. Or throw empty buckets of sunflower seeds into the stands in New York. As a starter, he'll probably appear in 30 different games, as opposed to maybe 80 different games as a reliever. Baseball Prospectus has proven that there is a higher incidence of Tavarez Craziness in games that he is actively involved in. It doesn't take a SABRmetrician to figure out that 30 is less than 80. While Tavarez' total IP will probably double, and it is possible that he will respond to batters that got a hit off him in their 1st AB by plunking them with a fastball (or a bat) in their 2nd AB, the probability of Batshit Craziness has decreased dramatically with Julian's insertion into the rotation. That is a tough pill for any Sox fan to swallow. Perhaps even tougher than that "Pedroia is a major-league 2B" pill.

During today's Sox-Reds game on ESPN, a Papelbon anecdote was related by the announcing team. Jonathan forgot to bring his baseball glove to the game. So he asked Varitek if he could borrow one of his.

In 10 years, I hope to still be hearing random Tales of Papelbon. Tales about ducks. Tales of money-making opportunities. Tales of awesome vehicles and crappy-tasting chicken. I hope that the Red Sox always act with Closer Boy's best interests at heart. Because he is the future. Not just of the Sox, or of baseball. The Future of HUMANITY. But I've already said too much...


kelly said...

i don't know -- watching tavarez go into the crazy!squat and try to direct the infielding during his stint as a starter last year was good for a 4.27 on the shenanigans meter.

Mike said...

While a 4.27 on the Shenanigans Meter (Alcantara Scale?) isn't bad, the Sox need their BC's to hit double digits on a regular basis.
Their stars have to be their stars.

Iain said...

At last - some baseball stats I can understand and relate to... Great post! :-)