The Decline of Jonathan Papelbon – Phillies Nation

The Decline of Jonathan Papelbon

PHOTO: AP / Jim Cowsert

Last night, Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save opportunity of the season, surrendering three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning in Texas. This has been somewhat of a theme for Papelbon recently. As Todd Zolecki noted last night, Paps has pitched poorly over his last 39 appearances–4.46 ERA, and eight blown saves. His infamous “I didn’t come here for this.” quote also came during that span.

Another thing to note, though, is over that same period of time, his fastball velocity has decreased. Last night, his fastball averaged 91.62 MPH. On June 24 of last year–the date that Zolecki used–his fastball averaged 93.44 MPH. In 2012, he was in the 93-96 range all year, and in 2011 he was up near 95-97.

Of course, a decline in velocity for a 33 year-old isn’t unexpected–but another thing to consider is his arm slot, which has steadily decreased (Credit to Bill Baer and John Stolnis for that find).

The question is–will this continue? Or is Papelbon simply in a pitching slump? The answer isn’t simple. It’s easy to expect more of the same old “Papelblown”, especially from a guy that seems to be extremely easy to hate by Phillies fans. But he’s gone through slumps like this before, too. In 2009, he had a 1.85 ERA with 3 blown saves–followed by a 2010 season where he had a 3.90 ERA with eight blown saves. He knows adversity.

However, if his dropping arm slot and velocity are effects of an injury, that’s a different story. We’ve seen this kind of reduction in velocity and effectiveness before. See: Roy Halladay. Halladay didn’t drop his arm slot like Paps is doing, but the drop in velocity and decrease in effectiveness is similar. Halladay labored a lot more than Papelbon is now, as well. So I’m not saying that Jonathan Papelbon has a bum shoulder, or that he’ll retire next year, but it is definitely something to watch. 33 is not terribly old for a closer–but Jonathan Papelbon is a crazy man. Not an ordinary closer. Still, there’s always a chance he gets past this.

And for our sake, I hope he bounces back.



  1. Andrew from Waldorf

    April 3, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    The decline is not shocking?
    You open the sports illustrated preview for 2014. The unnamed scout or executive from another team states its obvious to everyone. Except the Phillies?

    The problem is it seems to take the Phillies forever to understand the writing on the wall.

    Once they over pay for someone there seems to be this attitude of sticking with it.

    As if they will prove to everyone that they (Ruben Amaro) are smarter than everyone else.

    For me this is a tough year because I do not want the team to do well enough for Amaro to retain his job. So whatever it takes to have him be relieved of his duties is a bitter pill the fans will have to swallow.

    There is no hope as long as he is the GM.

    • CarlG

      April 3, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      Hear, hear.

  2. Laura Hoogerwerff

    April 3, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Toention Halladay in the same sentence as Paplebum does Doc a disservice. Paps is not in the same hemisphere as Doc nor does he have the talent. For the teams sake he needs to keep his month shut and pitch.

    • wbramh

      April 3, 2014 at 9:40 pm

      I wish he’d keep 3 months shut.

  3. Rae markley

    April 3, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    I think phillies should let him go I believe he is not going to come back unfortunately a lot of money wasted

  4. Andrew from Waldorf

    April 3, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    I would agree that once he is no longer the closer really you don’t want him in the locker room. As a set up man or whatever is not going to work.

    Before releasing him though some other team would probably take him if the Phillies pay 80% of his contract or something.

    So then at least 20% could be used.

    In the long line of Rubens terrible signings.

    This one is kind of off my radar because he really had destroyed the franchise before the Paplebomb signing.

    Paplebomb was kind of the cherry on top of the Ruben Amaro sundae we are all enjoying now.

    • wbramh

      April 3, 2014 at 9:41 pm

      Send him to the Redskins.

  5. "Big Ed" Delahanty

    April 3, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    I cannot stand him. An absolute cancer and psycho. I love how in the post game interview he blames everyone but himself. If anyone needs to be thrown off a train car heading for Niagra, it’s passholebon.

  6. Bart Shart

    April 3, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Papelbon is an overpaid closer who is nearing the end of his career. Thanks you Ruben Amaro, Jr. for overpaying for this guy.

    I hope management is watching this guy and measuring the idiotic contracts he has allowed. Amaro is really ruining this team with his stupidity and impatience.

  7. Doctor Vincenzo VonCueBall

    April 3, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Bring back Pat Gillick team has been straight downhill since he departed.

  8. Craig-22

    April 4, 2014 at 1:27 am

    Hey Paps: Man Up…stop blaming Ryne, Bowa, the fans or the hot dog vendor in section 236. Accept your problems and figure out how to correct it. Philly fans WANT to like you.

  9. Ted T

    April 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Two choices –
    Pay him millions and have him go out and cost you games or
    Pay him millions and sit him so he won’t hurt you.
    Either option is expensive, but the second is much easier to live with.

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