Throughout the offseason, I’ll be dishing out my 2011 Red Sox projections. I do a full set of projections for all major league teams annually at fantasybaseball365.com.
Jonathan Papelbon 2011 Projection
After 2011, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon will be a free agent. It seems, however, that some fans wouldn’t mind seeing him go this offseason.
It was a very up-and-down year for Paps in 2010. He didn’t blow his first save until early May, but ended up with a career high eight blown saves on the year. Things got real ugly toward the end of the season with two losses to only four saves and 18 hits allowed in only 11.2 September/October innings.
There has been a two-year regression in Papelbon’s key numbers over the past two seasons. While his strikeout rate remains good, his command has been hit-or-miss. Not only has his walk rate increased, but when he misses in the strike-zone, he has missed bad. That has led to a three-year increase in home runs allowed with a career high seven long balls allowed this past season.
The good news is that Papelbon still misses plenty of bats (25.5% whiff rate) and gets hitters to chase pitches outside the strike-zone (about 36% O-swing). Both factors should ensure a good strikeout rate once again in 2011.
For only the second time in his career, Papelbon failed to strand over 70 percent of his baserunners. His career left-on-base percentage is 81.6 percent and he stranded 89.3 percent in 2009. Chances are that Papelbon will stand more runners in 2011, which will help lower his ERA.
One thing that is easy to forget is just how small of a sample size we get out of relievers. A typical closer will only throw about 10-12 innings per month and around 70 innings per season, so a few bad games can greatly skew the overall numbers. Papelbon had a rough year in 2010, but he still displayed the stuff to bounce back a bit in 2011. Based on his last two seasons, Papelbon doesn’t appear to be the dominant force he once was. However, he should still be productive enough to contribute in a positive light for a Sox pen the needs a ton of improvement in 2011.
Other Red Sox 2011 projections: Kevin Youkilis