Yesterday, we looked at the middle relief options for the Red Sox and Yankees. It was close, but the Yankees pulled it out. Today, we’ll look at the back end bullpen options for the both clubs. The closers remain the same (for now), but both teams brought in expensive setup men. Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon or Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera? That’s the question we’ll be tackling today…

Back End Bullpen

Red Sox: (2010 Numbers)
Jonathan Papelbon: 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 10.21 K/9, (37 for 45 in save ops)
Bobby Jenks: 4.44 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 10.42 K/9, (27 for 31 in save ops w/ CWS)

Yankees:
Mariano Rivera: 1.80 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 6.75 K/9, (33 for 38 in save ops)
Rafael Soriano: 1.73 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 8.23 K/9, (45 for 48 in save ops)

The Red Sox did a great job strengthening their team this season. Yes, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford will have a daily impact on the game, but don’t forget about Jenks. The Red Sox inked the beefy right hander to a modest, two-year, $12 million contract. This move displayed the club’s uneasiness with current closer, Jonathan Papelbon. The Red Sox have spent all off-season listening to offer for Papelbon, but did not find a suitable trade. Papelbon, who is entering the finally year of his deal, knows that the pressure is on and Jenks will be the first in line should he falter. Jenks is a proven commodity, saving 167 games in six full seasons as the White Sox closer. The Red Sox will ask Jenks to lock down the eighth inning and may even ask him to close if Papelbon struggles early in the season.

Bill James’ Projection: 3.31 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.45 K/9

The heat is on for Jonathan Papelbon. The Red Sox balked at giving their controversial closer a long-term deal this off-season. They even listed to offers for the 30-year-old. Papelbon had his worst season ever as a closer last year, setting career highs in ERA (3.90), walks (28), and opponent batting average (.222). If Papelbon can deliver a season similar to 2009 (1.85 ERA, 38 for 41 in save opps), the Red Sox won’t have any issue locking Pap up. If Papelbon falters early in the season, the Boston media will be crying out for Jenks to take over. As much as I hate to admit it, I think Papelbon has a big year in 2011. He’s entering a contract year, people doubt him, and he knows that he has a short leash. He normally comes up big in this situations and I don’t expect it to be any different this year.

Bill James’ Projection: 2.61 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 38 Saves, 9.91 K/9

After the Yankees signed Rafael Soriano a very ‘team unfriendly’ three-year, $36 million contract in the off-season, they had the two best American League relievers from 2010. Soriano was just unfair last season, posting a .199 BABIP, converting 94% of save opportunities, and holding righties to a .132 batting average. In particular, Soriano was great against the Red Sox, yielding only three hits in 21 at-bats.

There are definitely questions about Soriano’s health, but that did not shy the Yankee brass from signing the 31-year-old righty. Expect Soriano to fill in for Mariano once in awhile. Rivera isn’t getting any younger, so there’s no point ending back out there in back-to-back save opportunities when they have 45 save stud sitting in the pen.

Bill James’ Projection: 2.03 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.73 K/9

Last, but certainly not least, we have The Great Rivera. Enter Sandman. Or just simply, Mo. Mo has been the model of consistency and dominance for the last 15 seasons. In only three of those 15 seasons has Rivera seen his ERA exceed the 2.34 level. Rivera has saved no fewer than 28 games in any season nor had a WHIP above 1.19!

Mariano’s most memorable moments have happened in October where he has an 8-1 record, 42 saves, a 0.71 ERA, and a 0.76 WHIP. Mariano is a living legend and all Yankee fans need to realize that our days having the ninth inning locked down by Mo are dwindling. Rivera is still pitching at a very high level, but he’s not a robot (at least, we don’t think he is). Appreciate Mo while we have him and realize that there won’t be another Mo, ever.

Bill James’ Projection: 1.89 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 33 saves, 8.42 K/9

Verdict

Edge: Yankees

This one was pretty easy. The Yankees have the two best American League arms from 2010 in their bullpen. The Red Sox have uncertainty. Papelbon and Jenks have a ton of talent, but both are coming off of disappointing 2010 seasons. When all else fails for the Yankees, they know that they always have one edge over their competition in #42.

Yankees 9
Red Sox 8

Check back tomorrow as we wrap up our twelve part series. We’ll be analyzing the managers.