Papelbon Decries Velocity Concerns – Phillies Nation
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Papelbon Decries Velocity Concerns

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After years and years of the abnormal act of throwing a baseball, eventually it takes a toll. For pitchers, it means velocity is decreased and numbers tend to suffer. But don’t tell Jonathan Papelbon that. He’s not buying it.

Following a 1-2-3 ninth inning against the Braves on Thursday afternoon in which he routinely hit 92-93 mph on the radar, Papelbon was asked about pitching at that velocity rather than around 89-90, where he has been for the better part of the last two seasons.

“Why do you guys care about “velo” so much, man? Does that matter? Does that really matter? I don’t understand that. If a ball has life on it at the plate and you’re throwing 88 miles an hour versus 98 miles an hour, it don’t matter. It doesn’t make one damn bit of difference whether you throw 93 or 94 or 84.”

I don’t get it man. You all killed Roy [Halladay] about velo; it’s not a big deal.”

To a degree, Papelbon is correct. If you throw 98 miles per hour down the middle with no discernible movement, chances are big leagues hitters will catch up to it. You certainly can get by as a pitcher who throws in the high-80’s if you’re able to locate with pinpoint accuracy, although it’s a rare occurrence that a reliever could do so. We might be finding out soon with Mike Adams.

Pap certainly is wrong with the crux is his statement. Velocity clearly matters and is clearly a concern, especially in pitchers who happen to be the highest paid at their respective position – like Papelbon is.

(As for the Halladay stuff, it’s pretty evident that once Doc’s velocity sunk like a brick, his career was over. The media certainly didn’t kill him for it; rather we wondered if something was wrong. Something was wrong.)

Looking at Pitch F/X, Papelbon’s fastball velocity has decreased in each of the past three seasons. In 2011, Papelbon was average 94.8 mph on his fastball. In 2012, he lose a mile per hour, down to 93.8. One year later, 2013, Papelbon was pitching with an average fastball of 92 mph. And early on this season, his velocity sits at 90.8 mph.

Today, and during his previous four outings, Papelbon has succeeded. But all you have to do is look at the numbers to see that it hasn’t always been as easy.

In 2011, his last season with the Red Sox, Papelbon was striking out 12.17 batters per nine innings. That dropped a bit the following season, his first in Philly, to 11.83. Still good enough to place him in the Top 15 of all relievers in the majors in that category.

Then came the cliff.

In 2013, Papelbon finished with a 8.3 K/9 rate and this year’s number heading into Thursday’s game was much the same – 8.4.

Exceptional relief pitchers, especially closers, rely on the strikeout. It’s what has set Craig Kimbrel apart from the rest in recent years. Papelbon can complain all he wants about those complaining about his velocity. But it’s easy to see why it’s an issue. The numbers clearly back that up.

In a perfect world, Papelbon would get three days off in between appearances. A fresh arm is normally a lively arm. This is not a perfect world. And Papelbon won’t be perfect for the remainder of the year, or his career, although he’ll need to be as crisp with his control as he has ever been. He no longer has the giddyup to blow a 95 mph fastball by hitters. So, yes, it does matter how hard you throw, Jon. We’ll see how long he can keep throwing this hard, because it only helps.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Hogey's Role

    April 17, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Idk about all this stuff, a fastball is hard to hit, whether it’s 88 or 98, it’s hard to hit whether it’s straight or has movement, it’s definitely tougher the more velocity it has and the more movement it has… Pinpoint control definitely helps and if your velocity is down a bit and you have good control and movement I agree that you can get outs no doubt, so hopefully papelbon can be successful with what he has left…

    As far as doc halladay goes not only was his velocity down but his control, which was right up there with the best in the league, had deserted him, I remember watching him throw warm up pitches and missing the target by 2-3 feet, and that’s when I knew something was definitely wrong, that was extremely sad to watch everything he worked so hard for just get ripped away from him, just inexplicable and terrible….

  2. Bruce

    April 18, 2014 at 1:03 am

    To be brief, it’s one of those “feel good” moments for Papelbon and for his teammates. A perfect inning of relief and his fourth save in five tries. Even his much maligned fastball by “fans” here looked great at 92-93 MPH. It had zip; it had movement and struck out batters. If the manager handles Papelbon properly, giving him the necessary break without over taxing him for the long season, he will likely continue to have his usual 30+ saves that makes him one of the premier closer for the last 8 or 9 years.

  3. betasigmadeltashag

    April 18, 2014 at 1:53 am

    I have to agree with Paps here. If the moves, especially late, 3-5 MPH in the fastball, does not make that much of a difference. It also helps if you have control and good secondary pitches that compliment the reduced fastball.
    And maybe just maybe Paps will learn this and become a better closer

    • Vinnie

      April 18, 2014 at 9:18 am

      I agree with Beta. I also think that as long as he is getting batters out, i don’t care if he is throwing 98 or 78.

      There are three things to pitching Velosity, Movement, and Accuracy. As long as you have 2 of them, you can get batters out.

  4. Chuck A.

    April 18, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Just that picture alone makes you want to punch the guy.

    • Hogey's Role

      April 18, 2014 at 7:03 am

      That was awesome

    • "Big Ed" Delahanty

      April 18, 2014 at 9:20 am

      This is awesome!

    • lefty

      April 18, 2014 at 10:15 am

      We should sell punching bags with that image on it. We’d be making his salary in no time flat. Good one Chuck!

    • lefty

      April 18, 2014 at 10:21 am

      And the award for best PN comment of the year goes to Chuck A.

      • Chuck A.

        April 19, 2014 at 7:19 am

        Thanks for the shout out, Lefty! Just sort of came to me as I saw that sorry-ass smirk of his.

  5. "Big Ed" Delahanty

    April 18, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Imagine how much ticket sales would jump if we had a Papelbon Speed Bag promo, with this picture on the bag and him saying, “Cincho Ocho don’t need Velo!” I’d buy a citizens park seven row of tickets.

    • lefty

      April 18, 2014 at 10:17 am

      Oh shoot I should have read this first. Sorry big Ed , you thought of it first. Great minds…..

  6. Don M

    April 18, 2014 at 9:44 am

    He’s such a clown. I like that he tries to spin it on the media that they’re making a big deal out of nothing … meanwhile the drop in “velo” was both the sign that Halladay’s injury was a bigger concern than he let on … and a major factor in Papelbon blowing so many saves in the past year.

    I’ll be happy when he’s out of town. He’s a dude that just doesn’t get it

  7. Dave

    April 18, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Did we ever really get any specifics as to what happened to Halladay other than he couldn’t pitch anymore?

    • donnavox20

      April 18, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Halladay said he had 2 Pars fractures in his back, which were apparently more bothersome than the shoulder.

      • Dave

        April 18, 2014 at 11:55 am

        Thanks for that info. I did not know that. I looked up pars stress fracture and it says that it gets better with rest and rehab. I guess the shoulder issues will not get better which is why he decided to retire.

  8. Double Trouble Del

    April 18, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Mariano Rivera was arguably the most greatest closer in MLB history routinely found success with a fastball in the low to mid-nineties. He initially had the ability to blow hitters away early in his career but it was his location and the development of an out-pitch (his cutter) AFTER the loss of his “blow-away” velocity that set him apart. I’m not really confident that Papelbon can get away from the “I’ll over-power you” mentality to discover that kind of pitch.

    • Double Trouble Del

      April 18, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      Please pardon my grammar “most greatest”???

  9. George

    April 18, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Some might argue that deception is what makes a pitcher great: not just speed, but mixing speeds, changing location, throwing an unexpected breaking ball, etc.

    I worry, though, that Papelbon is only deceiving himself, and not the batters. He certainly isn’t deceiving the fans.

    • schmenkman

      April 18, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      If he can continue deceiving them like in his last 5 games, he’ll be fine (17 batters faced, 1 hit, 1 walk).

      But maybe I’m deceiving myself…

  10. Bruce

    April 19, 2014 at 12:14 am

    In regards to Papelbon’s photo used here, that is actually his “gameface” and puts fear in the heart of hitters. (smile)

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