OK - before the hate mail starts rolling in, let me point out that I feel fortunate to have NESN as part of my cable package and the ability to watch Papelbon daily as he is one of the most exciting pitchers in baseball. But, watching each of his opportunities last year, I found myself getting nervous when he strutted in from the bullpen with the game on the line. Could there be something that I can use from a fantasy perspective, or was I just eating too many spicy foods?
The 2009 numbers confirm that while I do eat a lot of spicy foods, the 2009 Papelbon was not the same pitcher I remembered seeing in years past. From 2006-2008, his WHIP barely sniffed the 1.00 mark adding quite a lot of value to a Fantasy Team even with the small innings base of a closer. However, in 2009 Papelbon walked 24 batters in 68 innings - almost double his 2006 mark and triple his 2008 campaign. The WHIP rose to 1.24 - that is Bobby Jenks territory.
The argument here is not whether Papelbon will be an elite closer in 2010 - he will be. It is whether the control problems we saw last year and the alarming rise in WHIP is an outlier or an indicator of things to come. I am leaning toward the latter and that is why if I am filling up a fantasy roster with AL closers, my list includes Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera before Papelbon, and I could lean toward Andrew Bailey, Joakim Soria as later round, lower dollar options rather than reach for Paps.