The last time Jonathan Papelbon faced the Colorado Rockies, it was in the 2007 World Series. He was celebrating then. This time, it didn’t go too well.

I wasn’t all too surprised when the Rockies’ Ian Stewart clubbed a game-tying homer off Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Then a shrug of the shoulders and a shake of the head followed the winning shot by Jason Giambi, an old nemesis when he was with the New York Yankees. Despite this struggle, Papelbon has put up serviceable numbers. It was just his second blown save of the season. Yet, he only had three all of last year. There is no question that something is wrong with him.

His fastball is straighter than usual and has lost some velocity. Bad combination. And the result is 7.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio, down three whole points from last year’s mark. His ERA is 3.64 this season; last year, it was a sparkling 1.85. Hitters are seeing 3.86 pitches per at-bat compared to 4.15 last season, meaning his repertoire lacks unpredictability. Opponents are sitting dead red and teeing off. Overall, he has allowed six homers, one more than last season’s total. If he allows one or two more runs and three more earned runs, he will amass last season’s totals as well. His WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) is its highest since his rookie season.

Daniel Bard, the Red Sox 24-year old flamethrower, pitched one-and-one-third scoreless innings of relief prior to Papelbon’s appearance to begin the ninth. His outing, and its contrast to Papelbon’s, exemplified the differences between the two pitchers. Bard is waiting in the wings. He is Papelbon’s successor, and I believe he should succeed him now. He is much younger, his fastball has six more miles-per-hour attached, and his offspeed pitches are far more effective. This season, he has been their best middle reliever, compiling 16 holds with a 2.13 ERA. He does have four blown saves to his name and has relinquished four homers, but overall his statistics dwarf Papelbon’s.

Papelbon is still an All-Star caliber closer. In basketball terms, he’s just lost a step. But since he is still relatively young and has the ability to rack up saves, he could bring a lot in return if put on the trade market. Boston could at least get a few good young players for his services, preferably an outfielder, a relief pitcher, and possibly a shortstop.

Bard could struggle out of the gate in Papelbon’s stead, but I would rather see him scuffle during the transition than watch someone in decline with value on the trade market serve up bombs. Bard has the tools to flourish in Papelbon’s role. Papelbon no longer does.

Read more MLB news on