John Henry, Larry Lucchino and company are not big fans of that team from the Bronx (remember...they dubbed the Steinbrenner's obsession with winning as the "evil empire"). But when it comes to Jonathan Papelbon, the Yankees have hit amazingly well against the man for a few years.
Don't believe it? Have a looksy at the numbers, as found by the Elias Sports Bureau via Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston.com:
In his past 18 appearances against the Yankees, dating to June 3, 2007, Papelbon is 0-5 with a 7.85 ERA. He has seven saves against the Bombers, but they have hit five home runs in 18 1/3 innings off him, are batting .293 overall and slugging .547.
Papelbon had probably the second worst night of his career last night after a terrible blown save performance in Game 3 of the ALDS last year against the Angels.
I love what this guy has brought to the team when it has mattered the most, but it is hard to ignore some of these facts. Given that the playoffs are not really in the picture this year it's premature to say what the Sox would do, but it is certainly a reminder of the challenges of putting a championship caliber team.
Is he trade bait? Do you let him ride in to the off-season free agency sunset? Is Bard the guy come 2011?
Here's a little perspective. Over the last 3 years, Papelbon's numbers have been as follows:
37 Saves, 58.1 Innings Pitched, 1.85 ERA, 84 Ks
41 Saves, 69.1 Innings Pitched, 2.34 ERA, 77 Ks
38 Saves, 68 Innings Pitched, 1.85 ERA, 76 Ks
So far this year, he's had 9 Saves, 19 Innings Pitched, 3.32 ERA, 14 Ks.
I don't think Papelbon is done by any stretch, and his numbers are fantastic, but I think he has lost some of the life on his fastball. Up until last night he had been mixing in his slider and splitter much more often this season. I didn't recognize any of those pitches last night. His fastball was up and it was flat. Hence the 4 runs. I understand the tendency to go with your strength, but sometimes it simply isn't there.
Will he still get close to the high 30s or even over 40 mark in saves this year? Probably. But the contract he wants (and deserves) may rest on his ability to quiet the two best teams in the AL East.
Yet another work in progress in 2010.
[Image by apdonovan via Flickr cc 3.0]