You'd think with a player payroll of $150+ million, there wouldn't be so many baffling questions flying around The Fens. You'd think that we'd have a few things that were dependable. Maybe not sure things, but close enough.
The fact that the most dependable player in the bullpen is a guy who the Sox originally didn't want in the bullpen because they were concerned about his health is very telling.
We all know Papelbon is the closer. And we all know he has the same birthday as me. And we all know he had an ERA of 0.92. 0.92!!! I never stop getting amazed at that number. He had a WHIP of 0.776. That number is also quite amazing. e struck out 75 and walked 13 (5.77:1 ratio). He struck out 75 in 68.1 IP (9.88 K/9IP). He was amazing.
There's nothing to suggest he won't be anything but amazing in 2007. The only worry is his health. I think you'll see him almost never used to get more than 3 outs. I think you'll never see him in a game more than two nights in a row, or more than 3 or 4 nights a week.
Last August, Papelbon's ERA "skyrocketed" from 0.51 at the end of July to 0.93 by August 31st. It got as "high" as 1.00 at one point. The fact that his ERA peaked at 1.00 is extremely impressive.
I think/hope/pray he'll be healthy. I'm seeing 40 saves, 7 blown saves, 1.25 ERA, 80 Ks.
And then there's the rest of the bullpen...
The primary set-up man will eventually be Mike Timlin. He starts the season on the 15 Day DL, but is expected to return shortly. But he won't be the every day go to guy he's been in the past for us. After 961 appearances and over 1,000 innings, he just isn't capable of being the 80 appearance work horse the Sox have ridden in the 8th inning. I think he'll have a good year, but his appearances will be capped at 50, probably ending up in the 40 to 45 range. I think he'll have a solid 3.60 ERA, and he'll give us some of our tougher holds, but he won't be giving us the 20+ holds we're used to getting from him.
Next is Brendan Donnelly. His ERA has risen each of the past 4 seasons. He's not as good as he was a few years ago with the LA/Anaheim/California/Orange County/San Diego/Oakland Angels, but I think he'll do well in Boston. When we signed him, I thought it was a good acquisition. He's hardly a lights out set-up man, but he'll do.
Donnelly will fill in a bit of Timlin's role, particularly early in the season. He'll get about 60+ appearances and will essentially be our 1B set-up RHP. If Timlin's available, and the game is real tight, we'll see Mike. If Timlin is not available, or it's the 7th inning, or the game isn't so tight, we'll see Donnelly. He'll give us a good 15 holds, and finish with an ERA of about 3.75.
And it just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it.
JC Romero is a guy that Sox fans have been clamoring for at the trade deadline every year except last year. He's only 30 years old so it's very possible that his 2006 performance was an abherration. His spring wasn't disastrous, but it wasn't impressive.
In the past, he's been amazing. In 2002, he had a 1.89 ERA and 33 holds in 81 innings of relief work. He also won 9 games that year. But since then, he's declined, resurged, and declines. He'll be used as a left-handed set-up man, being used in innings in which lefties are expected to bat. He did hold left handed hitters to a .202 average last season. But righties hit .382 off him. If he doesn't work out as a set-up pitcher, he can probably still be useful as a situational lefty.
If Romero struggles against righties, Javier Lopez might just step up to the set-up role. As it is, he is a middle-reliever. but he had a nice short season with the Sox last year and it should continue. He's been liberated from high elevation ballparks in Colorado and Arizona, and has done nicely at sea level.
Hideki Okajima will probably be the situational lefty to start out the season. What do I expect from him? I have no frigging idea. He's experienced, he's pitched for 10 years in NPB, and I've got no clue what he'll bring to the table. He could be a good middle-reliever/situational pitcher, he could be a total flop. But he'll be a cheap flop.
Speaking of flops: Joel Pineiro and Kyle Snyder will both see the words "Designated for assignmet" next to their names on transaction sheets within a few months. Snyder actually had a good spring, so he might last, but Pineiro has a very short amount of time to prove that he belongs on this team. They'll be long relievers/middle relievers.
Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Kason Gabbard, Clay Bucholz, Bryce Cox, Edgar Martinez, and Kyle Jackson. These are names of players who will probably be commuting all over I-95 from Portland to Pawtucket to Boston during the season.
Our bullpen has something I like to call "mediocre depth." This means we have a lot of guys who can fill roles in the pen, but few really stand out as truly filling those roles well, at least right now. The bullpen has many experiments, and by the middle of the season I think things will be very clear. We've got a lot of "risky" pitchers in the pen right now, and some untested younger players who could come up and contribute. Until then, we'll just have to hope our starters go 8 innings every time.