2014 Pitcher Profiles: P – T

Jonathan Papelbon

Debut: 2005 |  BirthDate: 11/23/1980 | Team: Phillies | Position: RP
’12 5 6 38 70 11.8 2.3 1.0 2.44 1.06 2.89 1.8 1.4
’13 5 1 29 61 8.3 1.6 0.9 2.92 1.14 3.05 0.9 1.0
’14 4 2 33 65 8.9 2.4 1.0 3.08 1.16 3.44 0.7 0.4

Profile: For a guy that had an ERA under three, a good WHIP and 29 saves last season, Papelbon sure had a lot of things go really wrong. His strikeout rate fell precipitously — his rate of 8.3 strikeouts per nine was more than a strikeout worse than his previous worst, and more than three strikeouts worse than his 2012 number. In percentages, his strikeout rate fell ten percent! His swinging strike rate dropped from 12.2% to 10.6%. That was among the worst 30 drops in baseball. A lot of that had to do with his flagging velocity. He used to be 95+ with the Red Sox, that dropped under 94 in his first year with the Phillies, and then all the way to 92 last season. That last drop was tenth in lost velocity among with pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched in both 2012 and 2013. Adding to the concern was that though Papelbon threw his slider the most he’d ever thrown it, the pitch slowed down to curveball-type velocity — and still features slider break. With the splitfinger and the fastball and elite control, Papelbon could be fine, though, there are role models in Boston that he can follow. What would be more worrisome about these numbers is if they are hiding an injury. You can’t treat him like an elite guy anymore, but if your saber-savvy league is too far down on him, remember that Papelbon still has more velocity than Koji Uehara, who throws today’s favorite splitter. (Eno Sarris)

Quick Opinion: With dropping velocity and swinging strikes, post-peak 33-year-old Jonathan Papelbon won’t be the same dominant reliever he once was. We knew that. What we don’t know is if the numbers are hiding an injury, or if his team will decide to ship him out because of them. Don’t treat Papelbon like an elite closer any more.

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