|Notes and Observations Week 11: Defense Leads Battered Patriots to Victory Over Bills 20-13||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win Despite Cannon’s Assassination Attempt on Brady||Patriots and Bills Set To Do Battle on Monday Night Football||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots vs. Rex|
The clean-up crew was good enough this year to merit an A- in my report card. The depth was lacking last season, but this season’s options made all the difference on what was one of the finest pens in the game. Jonathan Papelbon was lights out in the regular season (ignore the playoffs for the purposes of this piece), but offseason pickups Ramon Ramirez and Takashi Saito and late season acquisition Billy Wagner were major factors for this team.
Beginning with the ninth, Papelbon was among the majors best closers, converting 38 of 41 chances with a 1.85 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 10.06 K/9. He is as dominant as you would want a closer to be, keeps guys off base most of the time, and can get outs without putting the ball in play. Terry Francona is unafraid to use him for more than one inning, a luxury some teams do not have or are fearful of attempting.
Billy Wagner balked at leaving New York for Boston because he wanted to go to a place he could close, but relented when nothing opened up for him and for the opportunity to win. This was mostly an audition for him to prove that he was back to form after arm surgery, which he looked to be with a 1.98 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 14.49 K/9.
Takashi Saito delivered on his deal as a guy primarily called on to keep the Red Sox in games with a 2.43 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and 8.41 K/9. Ramirez was a workhorse, appearing in a team-high 70 games. The hard thrower was lights out to open the season and remained strong through the campaign. He earned 12 holds and had a 2.84 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 6.72 K/9. Hideki Okajima was the go-to setup man and led the team with 24 holds with a 3.39 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 7.82 K/9.
Daniel Bard made an impression as a possible closer of the future. He was not always perfect, but on the whole was a viable option. He had a 3.65 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 11.49 K/9. With the sheer number of good options, no reliever except for Justin Masterson (4.42 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 9.57 K/9 as reliever with Red Sox) averaged must more than an inning per outing. Francona eschewed the long relief role in favor of cobbling together a series of quality innings from any number of arms out of the bullpen.