Phillies Player Review: Jonathan Papelbon – Phillies Nation
2012 Player Reviews

Phillies Player Review: Jonathan Papelbon

"Cinco Ocho" couldn't replicate his numbers from 2011, but his 2012 was still really good.

In a year full of frustration and shortcomings in all phases, the Phillies bullpen was arguably the most disappointing. After moving on from 2011 closer Ryan Madson, the Phils added Jonathan Papelbon, and Ruben Amaro Jr. made him the highest paid reliever in MLB history with a 4 year, $50 million (actually $50,000,058) contract.

Along with the addition of Papelbon, the Phils also expected guys like David Herndon, Mike Stutes, and probably others, to contribute positively to the team.

However, Stutes and Herndon pitched a combined 13.1 innings in 2012, and newcomer Chad Qualls was juuust a tad below average. Overall, the bullpen was middle of the road in the NL in many categories (except for home run rate, which they were in the bottom 3). It seemed as though the bullpen was always a nagging problem, and it felt as though no lead was really safe.

But this review is solely about Cinco Ocho’s 2012 season, so let’s take a look at some numbers. He pitched the most innings out of the Phils bullpen (as expected), which contributed to his 1.4 WAR on Fangraphs.

Still, he was not the “best” reliever in the Phils bullpen in many categories 2012, whether you want to gauge that by ERA, FIP, a combination of both, or even WHIP, K%, opposing AVG, etc, but he was probably the best overall, all things considered.

Looking at his 2011 season, it would have been unrealistic to expect him to replicate it. He set a career best in FIP, and overall was the best season of his career. In 2012, his ERA was actually down a a half of a run, but his strikeouts were down, walks were up, WHIP was up, and most importantly, his innings were up as well. His 70 innings in 2012 were the most he’s ever pitched in a season.

(Unrelated, but he needs just two outs to reach 500 innings pitched in MLB)

However, while his 2012 numbers were down from his 2011 numbers almost across the board, none were as drastic as his home run rate. In 2011, he gave up a HR/9 of just 0.42. That more than doubled in 2012, as his HR/9 was up to 1.03.

Nevertheless, Papelbon’s 2012 was great. Among qualified NL relievers, his ERA ranked 11th, his FIP ranked 13th, his K/BB ranked 6th, and his Fangraphs WAR ranked 9th.

So, even in a down-ish year compared to 2011, he was still arguably a top 10 reliever in the NL.

Jonathan’s Grade: B+ … The only thing keeping me from giving him an “A” was the fact that, although his overall numbers were quite good, there were many situations in which he blew a lead, gave up a run in a tie game, or gave up a walkoff home run to Chipper Jones. Yes, I’m still bitter. And he’s nuts.

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  1. Brooks

    October 11, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Chad just a ‘tad’ below average – huh..
    Overall – if you view Papelbon’s record this year as if he were on a different team, his stats are near outstanding. A .216 Batting average against, really outstanding BB/K ratio (18/92), his WHIP was a very respectable 1.06, 38 saves out of 42 chances – really, how much better can it get?

    Ask a PN follower and we always had that eerie feeling that at any time there could be a puke. For a $50 million (sorry, $50,000,058) contract we were hoping for a more warm and fuzzy.

  2. Ken Bland

    October 11, 2012 at 8:46 am

    I see the B+ as very fair. Lots of good work, but a combination of blown saves and losses in low double figures takes away from it. And he supposedly did a good job providine leadership to the developing penmates. That’s worth solidifying his grade, if not advancing it.

    Have we seen his best work over the length of the deal? I’d guess he has 1 nominally better year left ro show.

  3. Jonathan Nisula

    October 11, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Brooks, yes he was outstanding overall, but he definitely struggled in some crucial situations, and gave up a bunch of home runs

    Also, the Chad Qualls comment was sarcasm

  4. The Original Chuck P

    October 11, 2012 at 10:32 am

    He’s the third best closer in the NL – behind two guys that had historic seasons – but he’s the highest paid and his splits in save situations versus non-save situations is mind boggling. 1.49 ERA in save situations compared to 3.90 ERA in non-save situations. I think that I would give him an A- but a B+ is fair. He’s great and it’s fair to say that we would have been up Sheets Creek without him (had we re-signed Madson) but when you’re paid the big bucks, you are held to a very high standard.

    • EricL

      October 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

      He had 27 innings in non-save situations this season. That’s not enough to judge his performance, just as you wouldn’t judge the performance of a starter after 3 starts.

      His career splits in saves situations vs. non-save situations are nearly identical:
      Save sit: 2.26 ERA, SO/9 11.1, 4.7 K/BB ratio, .201/.261/.301 opponent line
      Non-save: 2.48 ERA, SO/9 10.7, 4.89 K/BB ratio, .209/.264/.332

      That’s almost equal.

      I guess if you’re just going to grade him on this season alone you can take this year’s splits into consideration, it just seems to me that it’s about as fair as judging a hitter based on his performance over a something like three week period, or, as I said, a starter over a single month’s worth of starts. The smaller you divide up the sample size, the more prone to wild variation it’s going to be.

  5. DCmikey

    October 11, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Few comments…..

    1) great write up. I totally agree w the B+. An A if he’s not on the Phillies and a contender. He is supposed to win here. Expected.

    2) he was obviously joking w the “juuuuuust” comment. I mean, did u really not take that as sarcasm. yikes.

    3) the Original Chuck P u stole my point- totally agree that he was so bad in non-saves.

  6. Jaron B

    October 11, 2012 at 10:53 am

    I like the grade… he did save most games but struggled in June into July and in most non-save situations. My grade: B+/A-… b/c he was one of our bright spots this year in a disappointing first half and all year when closing games. If only Manuel used him in some of those extra-inning losses when the team had a lead but gave it up…

  7. Lefty

    October 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I have only one complaint about Ocho-Cinco other than the fact that it’s weird when guys refer to themselves as another person.

    That whole walk around the mound gunslinger routine is soooooooo slow. I have trouble watching him, and cannot imagine playing behind him. If you want a good reason why they had to trade Pence and Victorino, that might be it, those two must have been going bonkers out there when Pap was in!!

    I agree with the grade, good write up Jonathan.

  8. "Big Ed" Delahanty

    October 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I think the grade of B+ is quite accurate for reasons everyone has said for Psychotron.

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