Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Closers make their own luck

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon knew the infield dribblers that Nick Green threw away on Tuesday night weren't what killed him.

"Especially when I have a three-run lead like that, walking the leadoff hitter is, regardless of who's up there is, for me, not what I'm trying to do," he said. "The leadoff walk was really what set the tone for that inning."

Every closer runs into a little bit of trouble. Just this season, Mariano Rivera has allowed three earned runs on one occasion and two earned runs on two others. But Papelbon has allowed 39 hits and, even worse, walked 20 hitters so far this season. He's allowing more baserunners per inning than all but two closers (min. 15 saves) in baseball this season:

1. Brad Lidge, 1.87
2. Matt Capps, 1.79
3. Jonathan Papelbon, 1.42
4. Brian Fuentes, 1.40
5. Bobby Jenks, 1.39
18. Jonathan Broxton, 0.94
19. Huston Street, 0.92
20. Ryan Franklin, 0.91
21. Mariano Rivera, 0.82
22. Joe Nathan, 0.78

Nathan, Papelbon and Rivera are commonly considered the best closers in the American League -- if not the best closers in baseball. The three even closed out the All-Star Game for the American League in July: Papelbon in the seventh, Nathan in the eighth and Rivera in the ninth.

But while their ERAs are similar -- Papelbon's 2.09 actually is lower than Rivera's 2.11 -- the above list shows that their effectiveness couldn't be farther apart.

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