Something’s Amiss With The Red Sox Jonathan Papelbon…

Now I am sure when most people read the title to this post, they thought I was crazy. How could something be amiss with Jonathan Papelbon? If you just look at his stats, they look pretty good.

Papelbon has 22 saves, a 1.89 ERA, 40 K’s in 38 IP, and is an All-Star this year. Those are stats that any reliever would take at this point in the season. However, if you look deeper into the stats and use the very trusty “eye” test, you would agree there is something a little “off” with Papelbon this year.

First, let’s use the “eye” test. The eye test is graded not on any fancy stats. It’s graded purely on what you see on the TV screen or what you see in person if you just so happen to go to the game.

I have watched all of Jonathan Papelbon’s appearances this year, and quite frankly watching him pitch this year has been painful at best. Anyone who has watched the Red Sox consistently this year knows what I am talking about.

What happened to old Papelbon?

What happened to the old Papelbon?

Every batter has a three-ball count, there are always runners on base, and he made things interesting more times than he has set the side down one-two-three. I find myself screaming “THROW STRIKES!!!!” more at the TV when Papelbon pitches, than I ever have before.

It’s beyond frustrating.

The second part of this equation – the stats, prove my point. In 2008, Papelbon pitched in 69.1 innings. In those 69.1 innings, he walked eight batters, had a BB/9 of 1.04, held batters to a .229 avg., and only threw 319 balls for the entire season.

In 2009, things have been quite different. In just 38 innings pitched, Paplebon has walked 18 batters, has a BB/9 of 4.26, batters have an avg. of .241 against him, and already has thrown 250 balls on the season.

So is Papelbon hurt? I don’t think he is. He is still consistently throwing in the mid-90’s and when he needs to reach back for something extra – he can do it. When he really needs a strike out, he can strike out anyone in the game. Just ask BJ Upton.

So if he is not hurt, what is the issue?

It could be as something as little as his set point. Last year and in years past, Papelbon used to set at the waist before throwing a pitch. This year, his set point is around his chest. Something as subtle as that can throw off a pitcher’s mechanics.

It also could be he is trying to work on his secondary pitches more. Papelbon has thrown his slider 10.7 percent of the time this year. That is a much higher rate than he threw his slider last year (6.1 percent).

Maybe I am just used to Papelbon coming into the game and just blowing people away without a problem? Perhaps Paplebon is changing like Francisco Rodriguez has changed?

What ever it is, watching Jonathan Papelbon close games is no longer the joy ride it used to be.

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4 Responses to “Something’s Amiss With The Red Sox Jonathan Papelbon…”

  1. Mike D Says:

    Couldnt agree with you more on this. The other thing is he is getting hit hard! These arent seeing eye grounders or fluke flairs, hit outs are warning track outs. Cant be a K-Rod thing because hes still young with not a lot of mileage. To my completely untrained eye but from someone whos basically watched every pitch for the last fews years, his fastball seems to lack any movement like it had in the past. Maybe thats a reason

  2. Justin L Says:

    I’ve been saying this all season.. but the one thing that as gone unnoticed is he doesn’t throw his splitter anymore. I remember back in 2006 when he would come in and was a predominantly fastball/splitter/slider pitcher. What happened to it? He gradually threw it less and I haven’t seen it at all this season?

    • Adam Bernacchio Says:

      I know. I have no idea what happened to his splitter. When he first came up, his splitter was his out pitch. Now he is just a fastball/slider pitcher. I guess only he, Varitek and Farrell know why he doesn’t throw it anymore

  3. Mr. Faded Glory Says:

    Adam, one simple stat can help explain what you’re trying to without the “eye” test: WHIP. Since he became a closer in ’06, he never had a WHIP over 1.000 for a season. In fact, in ’05-’06 it was 0.77, which is outstanding. This year he stands at 1.368, which is not.

    One also was to wonder if this is a trend, as in ’08 his WHIP rose to 0.952 (which is still good of course). For the Sox sake, hopefully it’s just an aberration and not a trend.

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