Phillies Player Review: Jonathan Papelbon – Phillies Nation
2013 Player Reviews

Phillies Player Review: Jonathan Papelbon



If you didn’t follow the Phillies closely and searched Jonathan Papelbon’s numbers, you’d think that, on the surface, he had a pretty stellar season. A 2.92 ERA in 61 appearances with a 1.13 WHIP hardly seems like a debacle.

But you are a Phillies fan and you know better.

Papelbon began the year with a sketchy performance in Phillies’ second game of the season, a 9-2 loss to Atlanta in which he allowed two runs in an inning of work. For the next two months Papelbon would cruise, not allowing a run until May 29 against a familiar team, the Boston Red Sox.

He’d convert 13 straight saves before running into the buzzsaw that was the middle of June. Papelbon would blow four saves over five appearances, somehow managing to win two of them. It was during that time that the Phillies, who were 31-30 on the first day of a 10-game road trip, would take a nosedive.

From June 7-12, the Phillies lost five in a row and returned to Philadelphia four games under .500. They’d hit the .500 mark just one more time that season, later in the month, before completely spiraling. Papelbon found himself in the middle of the mess in June.

Beyond a month filled with blemishes, Papelbon just wasn’t the same old pitcher for much of this year.

His fastball, a pitch that was feared a few short years ago, lacked life. The once dominant closer could not get batters to swing and miss the way he had in his Boston years.

At 8.3 K/9, Papelbon hit a new career low in that department in 2013, while making $13 million, the most of any relief pitcher in baseball. While Papelbon allowed a career low 11 walks, he posted a career high 59 hits. That seemingly decent 2.92 ERA ranked just 63rd in baseball among qualified relief pitchers. The fastball that used to routinely register 95 on the radar gun was fooling no one sitting at 91 this season. And as a pitcher ages, we know what happens with his velocity.

Truth be told, I’ve also thought Papelbon to be a bit of an outsider in the clubhouse. He doesn’t seem like a normal fit, especially with the core still in place that is now being infused with younger talent.

All in all, it was an uneven season for Papelbon.

Grade: C. When you’re paying a guy to be the best at his position, he at least needs to be close to that level. Papelbon was not that pitcher this season.



  1. bacardipr

    October 1, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Papelbon probably wouldnt fit anywhere.

  2. George

    October 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    The only thing I’ll disagree with here is the statement about him being “an outsider in the clubhouse.” Unless you’re there every day, this is little more than supposition based on Papelbon’s public demeanor. Public and private are totally different things.

    • Andrew

      October 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm

      I was under the assumption that Pat was around the clubhouse everyday (at least while the team is playing at home).

      • George

        October 1, 2013 at 4:16 pm

        “Around the clubhouse” doesn’t equal being in the clubhouse and interacting with the players, or being on plane flights with them all, or being in the dugout or bullpen with Papelbon during games.

        Even if Papelbon is a clubhouse jerk, without actual examples (and I’ve yet to read any player complaints about him) such opinionated commentary doesn’t belong in an impartial review.

      • Andrew

        October 1, 2013 at 5:54 pm

        When has any commentary on this blog ever been defined as being impartial? Of course it’s opinionated – it’s Pat’s opinion! If people just wanted pure stats, they’d be reading Fangraphs or Baseball Reference all day. They come here for opinions.

  3. Jaron B

    October 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    I’d go higher: borderline C+/B-… he was still a decent reliever although I’m nervous for him next year.

    • George

      October 1, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      I might go a little higher, too, maybe like a C sort of +, because some of his blown saves were helped along by some garbage defensive plays. But like Pat says, you expect better from someone who’s paid to be the best.

      One has to be nervous about next year. Those declining Ks and that drop in velocity should make Papelbon nervous, too. I hope nervous enough to alter his style and pitch selection a bit, or get hynotherapy, visit a voodoo priestess, convert to vegetarianism, or even retire. Just so long as he gets those last three outs.

  4. caphlfan

    October 1, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I don’t feel comfortable with him continuing as a Phillie, even though I’m not sure they have an adequate player to take the role over. I wouldn’t mind seeing him traded to someone who needs a closer and can part with something worthwhile in exchange, maybe a good bat?

  5. Jerry Lucas

    October 1, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Let’s see if we can crank out a 30 second post with 0 typos, 0 spelling malapropos, and 0 falsehoods.

    They’re running…..

    C, huh. Wonder if there’s a case to be made for C+. Little light on the blown saves sum in the 13-14 range that’s record territory, and touched by some notable names. Goose, for sure, at 13, maybe it’s Fingers at 14, but iI looked at it one summer night, and it was like a who’s who of bullpen names.

    Anyway, C- isn’t outrageous either.

    Wonder how Mike Adams is doing these days. Part of a tage team record for which 2 teammates have been polar opposites in attention to, quantity of, coming back from injury. Halladay in this corner, Adams in the other.

    And I wonder how Jeff Riordian’s doing these days.

    Anyhow, on Papelbon, who holds the record for most times called a “nickname” by a knucklehead who I doubt he would hear to his face, here’s some data on the former AL post season regular.


    Month Fourseam Slider Split **
    4/08 96.41 90.19 90.46
    5/08 96.51 87.56 90.64
    6/08 96.40 88.43 90.30
    7/08 96.28 87.59 90.91
    8/08 95.96 87.00 91.22
    9/08 96.10 87.44 90.26
    10/08 96.30 88.30 90.10

    Month Fourseam Slider Split
    4/09 95.67 84.65 89.99
    5/09 95.26 83.82 88.86
    6/09 95.33 85.79 90.47
    7/09 96.75 86.74 91.29
    8/09 95.44 83.77 90.48
    9/09 94.89 83.74 89.31
    10/09 95.65 84.67 92.06

    Month Fourseam Slider Split
    4/10 94.84 82.43 90.74
    5/10 95.16 83.13 90.59
    6/10 96.24 83.99 92.19
    7/10 95.86 84.06 90.74
    8/10 96.44 84.02 90.64
    9/10 95.60 82.20 89.87
    10/10 95.36 82.02 89.08

    Month Fourseam Slider Split
    3/11 92.35 79.71 0.00
    4/11 94.56 81.66 89.21
    5/11 95.62 81.32 90.12
    6/11 96.08 80.69 90.71
    7/11 95.78 82.14 90.22
    8/11 96.16 82.18 91.61
    9/11 96.44 81.45 91.50

    Month Fourseam Slider Split
    4/12 93.94 81.46 88.60
    5/12 94.30 81.15 88.44
    6/12 94.38 81.13 89.39
    7/12 94.57 80.76 88.27
    8/12 94.66 79.64 88.66
    9/12 95.08 79.72 88.75
    10/12 95.20 78.41 88.29

    Month Fourseam Slider Split
    3/13 91.08 75.39 85.77
    4/13 92.97 77.24 86.95
    5/13 93.66 77.54 87.42
    6/13 92.82 76.91 87.44
    7/13 92.58 76.00 87.09
    8/13 92.44 76.71 87.24
    9/13 91.71 75.71 85.31

    So datsa what The Rubenmeister signed up fer. Two down, at C something or other or better, and 2 to go. The trend doesn’t exactly say off year, and Mr. Moyer would stand there like Billy Foxx used to and say, “Where’s the change of speed, Mr. Pappelbunny, where’s the change of speed.? Maybe a lack of playoffs and 150 fewer pitches will offer needed rest, and Papeluhoh can come back semi-strong. He better hope so. 50 mil don’t buy what it used to, and he still may wind up asking Jaxson lee for the change back he threw to him in the locker room last spring.

    ** source = memory

    • Lefty

      October 1, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      It’s not an oddity that the velocity was up in May 2013. He was quite amped up in that appearance on the 28th in Boston. He was hitting 95-96 fairly consistently for the first time in a long time. Take away that appearance and I’m quite sure the velo looks closer to the rest of the season.

      Anyway he’s definitely falling off the cliff.

  6. DavidE

    October 1, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    He had a few bad outings. It wasn’t a Brad Lidge lights out year but some of the blown saves resulted from bad defense. I wouldn’t write him off and anyway the Phillies are stuck with him for the next two years.

    • brooks

      October 2, 2013 at 4:59 am

      Really? Are your minds that soft you cannot recall his last 2 outings?
      He is on my wish list – to find another address. Going into the 9th with a 3 run lead should be a warm cozy –

  7. bacardipr

    October 2, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Papelbon appears to be one of bad attitude. Seems to me at one point he probably stopped caring. I know most closers feed on emotion but Papelbon seems to be the negative type. Im not sure if the Phils have any internal options for the time been. I guess we could shop him but i see and probably think they should keep him for this year anyways. Only other options i can think off will be Bastardo and if healthy Adams.

  8. Sy

    October 3, 2013 at 11:53 am

    He’s definitely lost whatever he had. The thing he hasn’t lost is his apparent haughty attitude.
    I think he will even be more ineffective next year.

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