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.