Love him, or hate him, Jonathan Papelbon is quietly having one of the best seasons of his career, and is climbing the ranks on the Phillies’ all-time closers list.
Last night, Papelbon converted his 33rd save on the season, and his 100th save overall in a Phillies’ uniform, which ties him with Brad Lidge for 4th all-time in Phillies’ history. Since signing a 4-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies back in November of 2011, Papelbon has been great despite a “down” year last year when he only recorded 29 saves in 36 opportunities while posting a 2.92 ERA and a 1.135 WHIP.
This season, Papelbon has truly been “lights out.” His 33 saves ranks 9th in MLB, while his ERA (1.60) ranks 2nd among closers with 20+ saves, and his 2.9 WAR is tied for first among all closers.
Since giving up three ERs against the Giants back on July 23rd, Pap has been almost untouchable, giving up just one ER, while recording 10 saves and 17 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched over that stretch.
Papelbon’s best season in terms of ERA came back in 2006 with the Red Sox. That season, Papelbon finished with a .92 ERA while converting 35 of 41 save opportunities. His career high in saves came back in 2008, when he saved 41 games in 46 opportunities with the Red Sox while posting a 2.34 ERA
This year, Papelbon is having a hybrid of his 2006 and 2008 seasons, and it is resulting in one of the best seasons of his career. With 29 games left to play, Papelbon could set a new career high in saves if he is able to record nine more.
At age 33, Papelbon’s fastball velocity is not what it used to be, but he has been able to consistently hit 92-93 with his fastball, and has utilized his breaking pitches effectively. He has learned to become more of a pitcher this season instead of relying on a 95+ fastball to blow by hitters. This is proven by his strikeouts. With only 54 SO in 56.1 innings pitched this season, Pap is on pace to finish with his 2nd lowest number of SO in a full season.
It seems like he has finally adjusted. Pretty nicely I might add.
So where does this leave Papelbon on the all-time Phillies’ closers list? Pretty high.
With his 100th save in a Phillies’ uniform last night, Papelbon is now only 12 behind Jose Mesa’s franchise high 112 saves. With one year still left on his 4-year contract, Papelbon will be the Phillies’ all-time leader in saves when it is all said and done. However, what will his legacy be in the minds of Philadelphia fans? His attitude, and some of the things that have come out of his mouth have rubbed some fans the wrong way during his time in Philadelphia. Love him, or hate him, Papelbon is having one whale of a season, and could very well be the best closer in Phillies’ history when his time in Philadelphia comes to an end.