For what it is worth, I am under the impression that the wheels are coming off the Jonathan Papelbon Express, and I recognize that may not be worth much.
Maybe it is the lost luster for the Rookie-of-the-Year competition with the success of Francisco Liriano and the continuing success of Justin Verlander. (Hey! What about Melky Cabrera?)
Maybe it is the embarassment of the Red Sox's being swept in five games versus their blood rivals, the New York Yankees.
Or maybe it is the fact, he has blown three of his last seven saves.
For whatever the reason, I decided to look at his numbers. Over the his last ten appearances, those blown saves stick out, but Paplebon's overall numbers in that stretch would still make him an elite fantasy closer - 13.1 IP/2.70 ERA/0.90 WHIP/18K.
Maybe it is the fact he has given up those four earned runs after being charged with three in the first four months.
I don't know.
As interesting is the "debate" over his 2007 role. For fantasy leagues, this is the biggest risk associated with Mr. Papelbon.
I do not believe he can carry over his numbers as a reliever to a starter - more exposure, the need to preserve energy for a potential nine innings, etc.
However, I see no reason he can't be better than the $30 Million Dollar Man, Josh Beckett or Jon Lester or Matt Clement. (I know very low hurdles.)
Where I see an issue is the bullpen. Other than Papelbon, there is nothing to offer hope that one of the arms currently on the roster could do a Joe Nelson-esque job much less one on the level of the most dominating closers of all time!
If the Red Sox made no changes, then the chance of Papelbon starting in 2007 in minimal. But what are the chances of that when the free agent closer market will include low cost options like Bob Wickman, Danys Baez, Octavio Dotel, and Eric Gagne?
I'll leave the debate at that point pending further infomation.