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.