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Jonathan Papelbon: performance and pitch selection


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#1 ToxicSmed


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 09:55 PM

There was a lot of complaining tonight in the game thread about Papelbon being over-reliant on his fastball and I thought that it warranted some cool-headed discussion.

Here are a few things to get us started:

Tonight's outing (2ER) was as bad as Papelbon has ever experienced as a relief pitcher. I'd chalk it up to the fact that every pitcher experiences two run innings sometimes, but others believe that it was hitters sitting on fastballs.

Paps had allowed only one run, and that on unearned, since July 13 (a span of 18 appearances and 20.3 innings) during which time he has been largely reliant on his fastball, had held opponents to a .400 OPS, and had thrown 200/282 pitches for strikes.

On the season Paps is throwing 79% fastballs and they are being hit to the tune of .148. His slider at 6% and .375. He throws "other" (read: splitter) at the rate of 14% and it opponents hit .149 off of it.

#2 Foulkey Reese


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 09:56 PM

Jonathan Papelbon used to throw a devastating splitter as his out pitch, changing eye levels between the splitter and his upper-90s fastball. He has scrapped the splitter and replaced it with a slider that's nowhere near the swing-and-miss pitch his splitter was. On Monday, he got his four outs without throwing anything but a fastball. Papelbon has been more hittable this year, and if he's trying to be a one- or 1-pitch pitcher, that's likely why and a cause for some concern headed into the postseason.


Keith Law

#3 scotian1


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:02 PM

It would be nice if he is only going to throw one pitch that its not going to be belt high and down the middle.

#4 Foulkey Reese


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:04 PM

Has anybody in the media even asked Papelbon about the splitter and what's happened to it?

It used to be absolutely devastating, and now it's all but gone.

#5 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:07 PM

One problem is that Paps got 4 outs last night and didn't throw a single pitch besides a fastball to do it. He then came out again tonight against the same team and once again threw nothing but fastballs. Tampa's hitters had had enough looks at the pitch at that point that it can hardly be a surprise that they teed off on him.

The pitch location to Johnson was woeful, middle in and belt high. A terrible mistake. The other pitches he allowed hits on were fastballs away, entirely predictable given that was exactly what he was throwing last night.

Whether it's Paps' fault for throwing only fastballs or Tek's fault for calling them, tonight's performance was absolutely unacceptable. You cannot throw 20+ straight fastballs and expect that nothing bad will result from it.

All 5 of Paps' blown saves this year have been 1 run leads. He has not recorded a save coming into a 1 run game since July 8. His save percentage in 1-run games is very poor, 8 of 13 (61.5%). That is not what is expected from an elite closer. That is legitimate cause for concern heading into the postseason.

#6 roundegotrip

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:13 PM

All 5 of Paps' blown saves this year have been 1 run leads. He has not recorded a save coming into a 1 run game since July 8. His save percentage in 1-run games is very poor, 8 of 13 (61.5%). That is not what is expected from an elite closer. That is legitimate cause for concern heading into the postseason.


While it's not surprising that all of his blown saves came in one run games, the fact that he's only 8 for 13 this season is unnerving.

#7 RedOctober3829


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:15 PM

It seems like everyone in the media has given Papelbon a pass and not brought up the ineffectiveness of the splitter. Remy on the broadcast tonight didn't even think he was throwing more fastballs recently. If you give a major league player multiple looks in a row at a fastball it is more than likely he will time it and turn it around. According to the data, it shows that 4 of his 20 pitches were in the lower half of the strike zone so if you elevate a fastball a good hitter will get a good swing on it much more often than not.

I'm not sure how much you can blame Varitek in this sense either. If Tek believes Papelbon doesn't have confidence throwing the splitter then he won't call it. OTOH, that is part of Varitek's job is to enstill confidence in his pitchers.

According to pitchFX
Fastballs: 18
4 Seamer: 1
Changeup(although it looked to be a splitter): 1

pitchFX data

#8 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:17 PM

While it's not surprising that all of his blown saves came in one run games, the fact that he's only 8 for 13 this season is unnerving.

For some comparison, Rivera is 13-for-13 in 1 run save opps this season. His 1 blown save was a 3 run lead.

#9 Sprowl


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:18 PM

Workload: Papelbon pitched against the Rays on 7/9 for his third day in a row. Mistake. Part of that mistake stemmed from Tito trying to get Paps some work on 7/7, lest he should go inactive for a full week since 7/1. Circumstances came back and bit Tito and Paps in the behind, but Tito should have known that having Tito pitch against Texas with a 7-2 lead was a waste -- especially with a series against the division leaders coming up.

Pitch selection: Papelbon against the Rays threw 20 pitches: 1 slider, 1 splitters, and 18 fastballs. He got beat on his fastball before he threw any offspeed pitches. Keith Law is wrong: Papelbon's splitter has not been a devasting pitch since June 2006. Jermaine Dye hit a hanging splitter out of the park to tie the 19 inning game against the White Sox. That sent the Red Sox on the tailspin that ended the 2006 season. In 2007 and 2008, the splitter has been an uneven pitch with variable break and indifferent effectiveness. That's why Papelbon and Farrell have gone to the slider as an alternative offspeed pitch: the splitter has not worked.

Papelbon is a fastball pitcher. His effectiveness depends on a) a consistent arm slot, b) using the offspeed pitches at the right time in the count, and c) keeping the offspeed pitches out of the hitter's sweet spot.


edit: Dye's HR tied the game, not won it. Thanks, alacoldart.

Edited by Sprowl, 10 September 2008 - 10:40 AM.


#10 NomarRS05

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:19 PM

He has not recorded a save coming into a 1 run game since July 8.


While tonight's loss was an absolute gut-punch, this stat is a little unfair. Entering tonight Papelbon hadn't given up an earned run since July 13. He hadn't given up a walk since July 4th. Maybe he does need to alter his approach slightly, but there's also the possibility that blown saves just happen.

edit: ToxicSmed mentions this earlier.

Edited by NomarRS05, 09 September 2008 - 10:20 PM.


#11 Quintanariffic

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:24 PM

Pitch selection: Papelbon against the Rays threw 20 pitches: 1 slider, 1 splitters, and 18 fastballs. He got beat on his fastball before he threw any offspeed pitches. Keith Law is wrong: Papelbon's splitter has not been a devasting pitch since June 2006. Jermaine Dye hit a hanging splitter out of the park to win the 19th inning game against the White Sox. That sent the Red Sox on the tailspin that ended the 2006 season. In 2007 and 2008, the splitter has been an uneven pitch with variable break and indifferent effectiveness. That's why Papelbon and Farrell have gone to the slider as an alternative offspeed pitch: the splitter has not worked.

Sorry, but Law isn't wrong. It is incontrovertible that Papelbon used to have a devastating splitter. You can debate when he lost it or stopped throwing it, but it was absolutely critical to his success in 2005 and 2006. I don't know why he doesn't throw it as often, or as well as he used to, but it changed both speeds and eye levels, with beautiful arm side run. If this is what it takes to keep his shoulder healthy, I guess that's the price you have to pay, but he doesn't control his fastball like Rivera does, so he's not going to be successful for year after year throwing just that pitch.

#12 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:24 PM

While tonight's loss was an absolute gut-punch, this stat is a little unfair. Entering tonight Papelbon hadn't given up an earned run since July 13. He hadn't given up a walk since July 4th. Maybe he does need to alter his approach slightly, but there's also the possibility that blown saves just happen.

edit: ToxicSmed mentions this earlier.

It's unfair in that he's come into tie games and pitched very well; I will certainly concede that point. So in that respect yeah it's misleading. But an elite closer should be converting more than 61% of 1 run leads, I would think.

Blown saves don't just happen; they are the direct result of pitching extremely poorly and Paps certainly did that tonight. His location and pitch selection were absolutely atrocious.

#13 Cuzittt


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:41 PM

Workload: Papelbon pitched against the Rays on 7/9 for his third day in a row. Mistake. Part of that mistake stemmed from Tito trying to get Paps some work on 7/7, lest he should go inactive for a full week since 7/1. Circumstances came back and bit Tito and Paps in the behind, but Tito should have known that having Tito pitch against Texas with a 7-2 lead was a waste -- especially with a series against the division leaders coming up.


My problem with this whole scenario is the assumption that he would have been more effective today if he did not pitch on Sunday. Or, more importantly, that he would have been just as effective yesterday.

We do not know. We have heard that Papelbon asked in during that Texas series because he felt he was rusty. We also know that he gave up 2 hits and an inherited runner during that game.

Papelbon was not good tonight. That much is obvious. Why he failed tonight is probably not as easy as saying he should not have pitched on Sunday or he should throw more than fastballs (although it is easy to go down either of those roads).

#14 Harry Hooper


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:43 PM

He hadn't given up a walk since July 4th.



You cite this as an unquestioned virtue. In this case no walks is the result of pounding the strike zone with fastballs. No offspeed pitch and a lot of heaters in the strike zone...you're going to get hurt. Some nights it's a hard single or double and you work around it, other nights it leaves the yard. Few clean innings and more blown saves indicate he isn't what he was.

#15 LahoudOrBillyC


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:46 PM

Here is the thing. If Papelbon was not 100%, due to pitching the last two days, then he should not have pitched. Okajima threw 5 pitches in the 8th, and he is a better pitcher than a tired Papelbon. When did Papelbon start warming up?

#16 smastroyin


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:48 PM

You cite this as an unquestioned virtue. In this case no walks is the result of pounding the strike zone with fastballs. No offspeed pitch and a lot of heaters in the strike zone...you're going to get hurt. Some nights it's a hard single or double and you work around it, other nights it leaves the yard. Few clean innings and more blown saves indicate he isn't what he was.


Papelbon is clearly not as good this year as we have come to expect. I am not sure why this is a huge surprise. He has still been very good, but really any closer is going to have off years. Well, any except Rivera, which is the thing that makes him remarkable. There is very little margin for error so when you have minor struggles they show up fast, and most closers have a pattern of being dominant for a while then disappearing. I voiced this as a concern way back when the Papelbon to rotation argument was going on, but without Paps there is no 2007 title so I'm not too disappointed. AT the very least, though, he is not automatic and certainly the FO will need to have some consideration of the history of closers when they decide on contracts, etc.

I don't mean to be all "woe is us," my larger point here is that looking for trends and what he is doing differently is fine and all, but really oftentimes what it comes down to is just the fact that the margin for error is so low, and leverage is so high, and slight changes in result that can happen even if the pitching is largely the same and can create big swings in perception.

#17 Judge Mental13


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 10:48 PM

Paps was throwing hard, 94-7 the entire time he was out there. His heater was up to it's usual standard he was just leaving them much higher in the zone than he does when he's locating. When he goes out there just throwing gas and either keeps it down or leaves it high enough that the hitter isn't going to make solid contact his heavy reliance on the fastball is not an issue.

Location was the issue today, not stuff. I hope it does not persist as an issue but I'm not all that concerned yet.

#18 Sprowl


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 11:21 PM

Sorry, but Law isn't wrong. It is incontrovertible that Papelbon used to have a devastating splitter. You can debate when he lost it or stopped throwing it, but it was absolutely critical to his success in 2005 and 2006. I don't know why he doesn't throw it as often, or as well as he used to, but it changed both speeds and eye levels, with beautiful arm side run. If this is what it takes to keep his shoulder healthy, I guess that's the price you have to pay, but he doesn't control his fastball like Rivera does, so he's not going to be successful for year after year throwing just that pitch.

I have to disagree: it IS controvertible that Papelbon used to have a devastating splitter. The case for controvertibility (forgive the neologism) is that a) a devastating pitch requires a substantial number of repetitions to support its claims to devastating batters; b) I have observed that Papelbon's splitter has had many poor results since June 2006 (that's 26 months now), and the number of devastating splitters between his 2005 callup and June 2006 is really not that significant; and c) I can prove with pitchfx observations that in 2007 and 2008, his splitter has led to a substantial number of poor results and few demonstrably positive results, either by swinging or called strikes on the splitter, or by swinging or called strikes on the fastball to the same batter immediately following the splitter.

Cautions: b) those are my memories of observations dating back 26 months and I could be remembering selectively or wrongly... but I DOUBT that; and c) I believe that I can prove the statement, but don't want to take the time to try unless someone seriously disputes the observation -- and I am kinda obsessive about what pitch selection works and what doesn't for Red Sox pitchers.

My problem with this whole scenario is the assumption that he would have been more effective today if he did not pitch on Sunday. Or, more importantly, that he would have been just as effective yesterday.

We do not know. We have heard that Papelbon asked in during that Texas series because he felt he was rusty. We also know that he gave up 2 hits and an inherited runner during that game.

Papelbon was not good tonight. That much is obvious. Why he failed tonight is probably not as easy as saying he should not have pitched on Sunday or he should throw more than fastballs (although it is easy to go down either of those roads).

It's true that the negative effects of pitching 3 days in a row are usually anecdotal, and the number of cases would be small enough to raise disputes about the reliability of results. We cannot say for certain that overwork is a sufficient explanation for Papelbon's ineffectiveness tonight, anymore than we can blame Tek's pitch calling alone, or Papelbon's location alone. On the other hand, we can observe that he threw 14 fastballs IN A ROW between 94.7 and 97.5 mph, they were mostly high in the strike zone and not on the edge (ie, his location sucked). His shoulder subluxation in 2006 came on his third day in a row pitching (I think my memory serves me correctly here). In 2007, Papelbon was treated with kid gloves, and only started pitching on consecutive days in September. In 2008 the gloves are off, and tonight at least, the results were not very good.

#19 BroHammer

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 11:53 PM

I disagree with those of us who are saying that his pitches weren't down enough in the zone. He's not a ground-out pitcher. When he's pitching well he's getting many more fly outs than ground outs, or simply blowing batters' doors in with high heat. According to sportsline.com his GO/AO this year is 1.45. That's up from 0.53 last year (0.91 in '05, 0.77 in '06). If anything, it seems his fastballs should be going UP the ladder, where hitters fly or pop it up, or miss it entirely. Belt high=bye-bye.

#20 Pumpsie


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 12:01 AM

Paps was throwing hard, 94-7 the entire time he was out there. His heater was up to it's usual standard he was just leaving them much higher in the zone than he does when he's locating. When he goes out there just throwing gas and either keeps it down or leaves it high enough that the hitter isn't going to make solid contact his heavy reliance on the fastball is not an issue.

Location was the issue today, not stuff. I hope it does not persist as an issue but I'm not all that concerned yet.


If we've said this once on this board, we've said it a thousand times. When a pitcher is tired, the first thing to go is his location, NOT the speed of his pitches. A tired pitcher starts missing his spots way before there's any indication that he's losing speed on his pitches. If Papelbon was indeed tired pitching tonight, he'd be throwing his fastball right down the middle of the plate at 95 instead of on the corners, as he usually does, and that's what we witnessed, I believe. Tito went to the well once too often in this game. If he had to do it over, and he had any brains, I'm sure he'd stick with Okajima in the 9th.

#21 paulftodd


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 12:44 AM

You can not judge a splitter only by what results you get on the splitter itself. A well thrown splitter gets the hitter chasing a ball that dives out of the strike zone. It is either going to be a swing and miss, a foul, or a ground ball that will be a hit 20-25 of the time. The value of the splitter is it keeps a hitter honest and keeps them from sitting on the FB, especially with 2 strikes. It makes his FB even more effective, as do all off-speed pitches. Hanging splitters tend to get hit hard though.

That said, his FB is still a very effective pitch. But you need the command. I only saw the HR but that ball was not thrown where Paps wanted it to go. Too much of the plate.

His velocity was good, but he pitched 3 days in a row, and the first indication of shoulder fatigue is not a velocity drop, it's command.

I would not read too much into 1 game. TBD has been doing this all year in late innings.

The question about where the splitter is is a good one. Even if the journalist pretenders in Boston asked the question, I am sure you would not get an honest answer. That information is classified at the highest levels. But I agree that throwing 95% of your pitches as FB's is a gift to guys who like FB's, especially if you make mistakes. My recollection of 2007 when I caught most of the games is that he used it quite a bit, but I am getting old.

Also, before tonights game, Paps over the last 40 games has a 1.09 ERA, 41 1/3 IP, 30 H, 1 HR, 48 K, 5 BB, 24 SV, 1 BS. Admit it, your spoiled. Remember the days of Keith Foulke and GFU Kim, and all will be well in the Paps era.

#22 TheoShmeo


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 05:41 AM

Also, before tonights game, Paps over the last 40 games has a 1.09 ERA, 41 1/3 IP, 30 H, 1 HR, 48 K, 5 BB, 24 SV, 1 BS. Admit it, your spoiled. Remember the days of Keith Foulke and GFU Kim, and all will be well in the Paps era.

Paps' results -- other than in one run save situations -- have indeed been great. But noting that Paps really hasn't had reliable secondary pitches this year doesn't translate into spoiled, in my view. It translates into a real October concern.

As to Foulke and Kim, first, they don't belong in the same sentence, and second, conjuring up the suck of Kim doesn't make things well in the Paps era if they're not. It just means that things could be a lot worse.

Is it too late in the season for Farrell and Paps to resurrect Papelbon's splitter or improve his slider?

#23 Sprowl


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 06:34 AM

I disagree with those of us who are saying that his pitches weren't down enough in the zone. He's not a ground-out pitcher. When he's pitching well he's getting many more fly outs than ground outs, or simply blowing batters' doors in with high heat. According to sportsline.com his GO/AO this year is 1.45. That's up from 0.53 last year (0.91 in '05, 0.77 in '06). If anything, it seems his fastballs should be going UP the ladder, where hitters fly or pop it up, or miss it entirely. Belt high=bye-bye.

Your data seem to be saying the opposite from your conclusion. During Papelbon's shut-out August (11 games, 12.2 ip, 7 h, 0 r, 11 K, 20 groundballs, 9 flyballs) he was throwing lower in the zone and getting grounders. His strikeout rate is also down a little bit from last year. The sample size is pretty small, to be sure, but it suggests that he can be successful in several different ways, including pitching to contact. His 2008 season may be his most effective yet as measured in reduced walk rate (1.02) and FIP (1.99), although not as lucky as earlier seasons in babip (.302) or LOB% (73.4%).

I agree that belt-high pitches over the heart of the plate are a problem, no matter what pitch is thrown; as Pumpsie says, poor location is a problem before loss of velocity. Papelbon wasn't missing quite that badly yesterday: Johnson's home run on 9/9 came on a high fastball over the middle of the plate. It's hard to fault Papelbon for challenging the leadoff hitter on a 3-2 count, especially when he appears to have been squeezed on two of the first three pitches. Both Perez and Navarro hit their doubles off of belt-high fastballs on the outer part of the strike zone in the second pitch of each at-bat, after the first pitch of the same velocity. In retrospect, changing speeds or wasting a pitch would have helped...

You can not judge a splitter only by what results you get on the splitter itself. A well thrown splitter gets the hitter chasing a ball that dives out of the strike zone. It is either going to be a swing and miss, a foul, or a ground ball that will be a hit 20-25 of the time. The value of the splitter is it keeps a hitter honest and keeps them from sitting on the FB, especially with 2 strikes. It makes his FB even more effective, as do all off-speed pitches. Hanging splitters tend to get hit hard though.

I agree that the results of the splitter, or any breaking pitch, cannot be judged in isolation, but that is not what I am doing. Throwing a splitter out of the zone for a ball is not a problem, and helps upset the batter's timing on the fastball. If a pitcher throws a breaking pitch followed by a fastball, the results of the second pitch can be partially credited to the first under the assumption that the changeup/splitter/slider makes it harder for the hitter to catch up to the heat next time around. The failure of a breaking pitch is when it hangs -- so bad results (ie, a hit rather than a ball) can be credited directly to the breaking pitch. In Papelbon's case, the inconsistent and occasionally hanging splitters have been a problem for quite a while now, which is probably the reason that he is throwing it less often: 12.3% in 2008 vs. 19.7% in 2006, according to Fangraphs. Those data are suggestive, not conclusive, since pitch classification systems occasionally get the splitter wrong, but in this case the data confirm qualitative observation.

#24 Manny's Hammies

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 06:41 AM

Re. the split:

I said this in the game thread, but if you ask G38, he will tell you that he barely threw his split for a couple of years with the Sox b/c he'd completely lost the feel for it. It's possible the same thing happened to Paps -- it's also possible, given when the "devastating split" went MIA, that he altered his mechanics in the wake of his 2006 injury, making it less effective. Regardless, he's been just about as effective since he dumped it. The truth of the matter is that when he's rested hitters still can't really hit his one pitch. Last night, he wasn't rested, left the ball up to hitters and got pounded. C'est la vie, end of story.

#25 OCD SS


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 07:33 AM

If we've said this once on this board, we've said it a thousand times. When a pitcher is tired, the first thing to go is his location, NOT the speed of his pitches.


The thing I've noticed when watching Paps this year is that his command has not been good. I don't remember exactly when I noticed it, but if you watch him now and compare him to last year, the key is to watch Tek. The number of pitches where Tek has to dramatically move his glove (or even his whole body) on a fastball (I'm not talking about breaking balls in the dirt) seem to have gone up quite a bit. IIRC last year Tek wasn't moving around at all. Paps would consistiently hit his mitt. To my untrained eye it looks like he's overthrowing the ball, trying to muscle it past hitters, and as a result he doesn't know where it's going. It's not surprising that a few of these pitches wind up up in the zone, and few of those up are getting hit, and a lot more of them are getting fouled off.

Re. the split:

I said this in the game thread, but if you ask G38, he will tell you that he barely threw his split for a couple of years with the Sox b/c he'd completely lost the feel for it. It's possible the same thing happened to Paps -- it's also possible, given when the "devastating split" went MIA, that he altered his mechanics in the wake of his 2006 injury, making it less effective. Regardless, he's been just about as effective since he dumped it.


Re: the italics (mine): I don't think he's been as effective this year for the reasons I state above, but I think the disappearance of his split is telling. Lately I've seen the new Sox FO make too many moves that were puzzling until we got all the information, at which point it made sense (the best example I can think of is how the addition Mendoza to the ALCS roster in '04 presaged the information of G38's injury). Now I assume that there's a reason for it and try to figure out the underlying cause. In the case of Pap's splitt I think you've more or less nailed it. The splitter puts a lot of extra pressure on the elbow, so much that a lot of teams won't let their young kids throw it. When you add in Paps vocalizations about wanting a long term contract last off-season, I think a picture of pitcher trying to make adjustments for health's sake more than anything else becomes apparent. As has been said, Paps still has an elite FB, so it's not like he's toast, but it seems like there will be more adjustments going forward.

#26 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 07:45 AM

Paps' results -- other than in one run save situations -- have indeed been great. But noting that Paps really hasn't had reliable secondary pitches this year doesn't translate into spoiled, in my view. It translates into a real October concern.

As to Foulke and Kim, first, they don't belong in the same sentence, and second, conjuring up the suck of Kim doesn't make things well in the Paps era if they're not. It just means that things could be a lot worse.

Is it too late in the season for Farrell and Paps to resurrect Papelbon's splitter or improve his slider?

I would argue that 1 run situations are precisely the situations where elite closers separate themselves from the pack. Any useless Borowski can rack up large numbers of saves in 2- or 3- run games; there's no indication whatsoever that a high level of skill is needed to do that. But 1 run saves are the highest leveraged usage for the traditional closer situation and this season Papelbon has blown 40% of them. That's simply not good enough for a contending team.

Putting it another way, in 2002 Ugie Urbina racked up 40 saves but was given the boot by the Sox at the end of the year in part because he was only 7 for 13 in 1 run save opportunities. This year Papelbon is 8 for 13 in such opportunities. Papelbon is of course a much better pitcher than Urbina was in '02, but in 1 run games this year Paps has been Urbina with better press and without the machete.

#27 TheoShmeo


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 07:59 AM

I would argue that 1 run situations are precisely the situations where elite closers separate themselves from the pack.

Your argument is well taken and puts a finer point on why those expressing concern about Paps are anything but spoiled or reactionary. Whether it's his record in one-run save opportunities or his lack of a reliable and useful second pitch at present, there's cause for some legitimate concern.

#28 Dick Drago

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 08:19 AM

Didn't Papelbon really just learn the split in 2006? It was a great pitch that year, but it seems possible that since he was just learning it he hadn't fully mastered it; when something went a bit wrong, perhaps since it was a new pitch for him its been more difficult to correct the mechanics and regain trust in the pitch.

He's hung it at several times and seen it get crushed, so it has seemed to me he's been shy about throwing it in one run games; if he hangs it its much more likely to be hit out of the park than a FB, last night notwithstanding. It has had the wrong effect though, since going with the FB exclusively lets hitters tee off and consequently he's had trouble with one run saves. At this point I'd rather see him use it anyway, and risk a hanger now and then, they were really on his FB last night. His slider looked good, but against LHH he really needs the split, especially when the location on his FB is off. It looked like the 3-1 pitch to Johnson was also a good pitch to hit, but he was just late with the swing; the next one was a tougher one for a LHH, a little bit higher, but he had Papelbon timed by then.

#29 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 08:25 AM

Paps' results -- other than in one run save situations -- have indeed been great. But noting that Paps really hasn't had reliable secondary pitches this year doesn't translate into spoiled, in my view. It translates into a real October concern.


It's an October concern in the sense that everything is a concern around here. It's pretty far down on my list.

Papelbon's been worse than he was the past two years, but that was inevitable. Opposing batters are hitting 212 / 235 / 312 off of him. His peripherals are 0.6 HR /9, 1.0 BB/9, and 10.3 K/9. Sucks that he coughed one up last night, but please let me know what team has a better closer?

It was his third straight game, he probably wasn't warmed up properly, etc. I'm a lot more pissed off about Tek and the decision to have him bunt when he clearly has no clue how to do it.

#30 Foulkey Reese


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 08:51 AM

More Keith Law.

Jonathan Papelbon's overreliance on his fastball finally caught up to him against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night in the Red Sox's 5-4 loss against the Rays.

After throwing 14 fastballs and nothing else Tuesday, he started left-handed pinch-hitter Dan Johnson with five fastballs, including a 3-1 pitch down the middle that Johnson just missed. Yet, despite the obvious call for a splitter with a 3-2 count on a left-handed hitter, Papelbon went back to the fastball, and Johnson -- already starting his bat early on the previous pitch -- took it out to deep right-center.

Even after the home run, the mono-pitch approach continued. Willy Aybar saw four fastballs, hit the last one hard, but lined out to center. Fernando Perez, 1-for-10 in the majors, got two fastballs and tagged the second one -- 95 mph and up -- nearly taking it over the Green Monster (and showing more opposite-field power than I ever thought he had). Dioner Navarro saw two fastballs and doubled Perez home on the second one. Over two nights, Papelbon threw 30 straight fastballs before throwing any other type of pitch; he eventually threw one splitter and one slider Tuesday, but well after the damage had been done.


http://insider.espn....?name=law_keith

#31 ScotianSox

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:00 AM

More Keith Law.
http://insider.espn....?name=law_keith


So, is that a call for a 3-1 splitter? He has probably been relying on his fastball too much but most pitchers do when they get behind in the count. This is especially true for pitchers with good fastballs.

Edit: I misread that a bit (and had a brain-fart). Yea, the 3-2 pitch could have been a splitter but I would have been pretty upset with a lead-off walk.

Edited by ScotianSox, 10 September 2008 - 09:01 AM.


#32 Snodgrass'Muff


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:05 AM

Looking at the fangraphs data, it seems he really is throwing the splitter a lot less. Effectiveness aside, his reliance on the fastball has increased noticably since 2006.

[codebox]Year FB% SL% SF%



2006 73.5 6.5 19.7

2007 78.1 6.2 15.7

2008 81.9 5.9 12.3[/codebox]

So, he's throwing less splitters (SF = Splitter) and has replaced them with fastballs, not sliders if this data is to be believed accurate. A jump from 73.5 to 81.9% is significant, and could be the reason he's been more hittable these last two seasons. Of course, it's not fair to expect him to repeat his 2006 every year, but perhaps the reason for that success really was tied into the splitter being better, thus allowing him to throw less fastballs.

His heater is great, but when you throw 8 of them every 10 pitches without a secondary pitch that can get swings and misses, it's going to be tough to avoid the occasional night like he had last night. And when you throw 30 in a row over 2 nights (if Law is correct), you're going to get tagged by even a medoicre offense.

Edited by Snodgrass'Muff, 10 September 2008 - 09:06 AM.


#33 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:10 AM

His heater is great, but when you throw 8 of them every 10 pitches without a secondary pitch that can get swings and misses, it's going to be tough to avoid the occasional night like he had last night. And when you throw 30 in a row over 2 nights (if Law is correct), you're going to get tagged by even a medoicre offense.

That accounting from Keith Law is just about as damning an indictment of Paps/Tek's pitch selection as anything I've ever read. You cannot expect to throw the same team nothing but fastballs night after night and think you're going to get away with it.

I have joked in the past that Papelbon is dumber than ten dogs, but more accurately he is a grossly unsophisticated pitcher, to put it mildly. He has trouble holding runners on base because he doesn't bother paying attention to them, he's not a good fielder, he never seems to set batters up in each at bat, and now he's trying to be a macho-man closer by blowing fastballs by everyone. That is a recipe for disaster and his results in 1 run save opps this year reflect that. His fastball location isn't even very good; he gets away with missing his spots a lot because he throws so hard and his fastball has some movement. But he's got to become a far more complete pitcher if he wants to maintain his effectiveness in the closer role, and that means making a commitment to developing a reliable, effective off-speed pitch, and he needs to do it very soon.

#34 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:24 AM

He has trouble holding runners on base because he doesn't bother paying attention to them, he's not a good fielder, he never seems to set batters up in each at bat, and now he's trying to be a macho-man closer by blowing fastballs by everyone. That is a recipe for disaster and his results in 1 run save opps this year reflect that.


I think his results overall are far more important than the tiny sample of results in 1 run save opps (which is about as relevant as the Sox road record in one-run games), and his overall results are phenomenal. I think there's a tendency to be hyper reactionary here, but looking at the big picture and I don't see a whole lot of evidence that Papelbon needs to make major changes to his game. He's one of the top 2-3 closers in baseball, at worst.

#35 Return of the Dewey

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:27 AM

I would like to see him develop a better secondary pitch, though. Actually, I'd mostly like to see him get that splitte back into form. But without knowing why he shyed away from it, it's tough to tell how likely that would be.


It was only after TB took the lead that he started throwing splits and sliders, and it ended up getting him out of the inning without any further damage. I think that he has the secondary pitches...are they devasting/above average pitches, probably not. But, he has them, and it seems to me that he needs to throw them more often just to give hitters a different look. IMHO, I think the reliance on FBs stems from those few blown save/holds situations of Paps where he got beat with something other than his FB....didn't he get beat on a hanging split against the MFYs earlier this season?...and b/c of that he or Tek or a combo of both have decided that if he's going to get beat it's going to be with his best pitch. It'll be interesting to see if Papelbon can mature and adjust his approach based upon how hitters have adjusted to him (by sitting on FBs).

#36 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:28 AM

I think his results overall are far more important than the tiny sample of results in 1 run save opps (which is about as relevant as the Sox road record in one-run games), and his overall results are phenomenal. I think there's a tendency to be hyper reactionary here, but looking at the big picture and I don't see a whole lot of evidence that Papelbon needs to make major changes to his game. He's one of the top 2-3 closers in baseball, at worst.

What?

Blowing leads in 1 run save opps isn't meaningful? Are you kidding me? To me they are the litmus test of whether a guy is a dominant closer or not. To casually dismiss multiple failures in the highest-leveraged situations this year as irrelevant is absolutely mind-boggling to me.

Any shitbum can rack up saves in 3 run games; Joe Borowski certainly did. Papelbon wanted to be paid like an elite closer at the beginning of this year. While he's been very good overall, he's failed to pitch like an elite closer in tight games this season.

If he's one of the top 2-3 closers in baseball he probably ought to be converting more than 60% of his toughest save opps, I would think. Rivera certainly has, although I haven't checked the usual suspects (Nathan, KRod) to see how they stack up in similar situations.

EDIT: Nathan is 18 for 22 in 1 run save situations this year, 81%. KRod is 19 for 22, 86%. Rivera is perfect at 13 for 13. Paps, for comparison, is 8 for 13, 61.5%.

#37 Todd Benzinger

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:35 AM

Is Pap maybe overthrowing a bit in these 1 run situations, trying to blow everyone away, and therefore leaving the ball up in the zone?

Edited by Todd Benzinger, 10 September 2008 - 09:36 AM.


#38 Quintanariffic

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:37 AM

Didn't Papelbon really just learn the split in 2006? It was a great pitch that year, but it seems possible that since he was just learning it he hadn't fully mastered it; when something went a bit wrong, perhaps since it was a new pitch for him its been more difficult to correct the mechanics and regain trust in the pitch.

No - by all accounts, he either learned it or refined it working with G38 in Spring Training 2005.

thanks to the fangraphs data that Snodgrass Muff presented, we know that he used to throw it a lot more often, subjective memories notwithstanding. I'd be interested to see how often he was throwing it in the first half of 2006 when his ERA was hovering around 0.00. My subjective memory indicates he was throwing it more than even 20% at that point.

#39 Snodgrass'Muff


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:38 AM

If he's one of the top 2-3 closers in baseball he probably ought to be converting more than 60% of his toughest save opps, I would think. Rivera certainly has, although I haven't checked the usual suspects (Nathan, KRod) to see how they stack up in similar situations.


I think Rudy is simply pointing out that you're looking a very small sample size and part of the results might be due to simple varience. In 2007 when he pitched with the opposition within 1 run, his line against was .116/.183/.198. Late and Close (tied, within 1 run or tying on deck), opposing teams hit .142/.201/.243 against him. You're looking at 25 and 47 games respectively.

I find myself between the two viewpoints here. I think some of it is probably varience, but part of it is also on Papelbon. The question is, how much is on him?

Link to BR splits: http://www.baseball-...i...1&year=2007

#40 Snodgrass'Muff


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:41 AM

No - by all accounts, he either learned it or refined it working with G38 in Spring Training 2005.


FWIW, according to fangraphs he threw the splitter 13.4% of the time in 2005.

#41 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:44 AM

Blowing leads in 1 run save opps isn't meaningful? Are you kidding me? To me they are the litmus test of whether a guy is a dominant closer or not. To casually dismiss multiple failures in the highest-leveraged situations this year as irrelevant is absolutely mind-boggling to me.


That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying that his overall performance is more relevant than what he's done in 1-run saves in '08, in much the same way that the Sox overall record was more important than it's record in one-run road games in '08. Are you actually questioning whether Papelbon is a dominant closer? I tend to think that he's passed the litmus test, regardless of a few blown saves this season.

Does anyone have a breakdown of Papelbon's stats in one-run games over his career? (Thanks Snodgrass)

Edited by Rudy Pemberton, 10 September 2008 - 09:45 AM.


#42 Foulkey Reese


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:46 AM

From lurker donutogre....

There's a really good Papelbon thread going on, but I'm surprised very few people have mentioned/discussed the fact that Papelbon almost certainly wasn't warmed up properly.

Unfortunately I can't go back and check but I don't think he was up and throwing until after Bay's HR. Maybe he was up after Youk's walk, but still, even with the Okajima stall tactics, I don't think it is a stretch to say that he didn't have time to properly warm up.

I feel like we've seen him get rushed into games other times this season, with similarly poor results. Between the short warmup and the 3 days of consecutive pitching, I can't say I am surprised. I had a bad feeling about him as soon as he took the mound.

Okajima should have been left in for another batter or two if not given the chance to finish the game.

Anyway, if you think that this is worth discussing in the thread, feel free to drop it in. I figured more people would be giving Tito at least part of the blame for rushing Papelbon into the game after he pitched on consecutive days.



#43 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:49 AM

That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying that his overall performance is more relevant than what he's done in 1-run saves in '08, in much the same way that the Sox overall record was more important than it's record in one-run road games in '08. Are you actually questioning whether Papelbon is a dominant closer? I tend to think that he's passed the litmus test, regardless of a few blown saves this season.

Does anyone have a breakdown of Papelbon's stats in one-run games over his career? (Thanks Snodgrass)

His overall performance includes a lot of pitching with 2 and 3 run leads, as well as higher-leveraged games that are tied. Pitching well when you have a 3 run lead to protect is nice and all, but pitching well in a tie game or with a 1 run lead to protect is far, far more important IMHO. So I don't think it's unfair in the slightest to break down his performance to smaller sample sizes like this. He's a relief ace, supposedly; his usage should be in high-lev situations with little margin for error.

Papelbon has not converted 1 run save opps at anywhere near the same rate as other dominant closers this season. That to me is a telling stat and a reason for concern.

#44 Koufax

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:51 AM

From lurker donutogre....


And Masterson was warmed up properly. I thought at the time that he should have been brought in. Oki is best used in one inninng.

#45 JimD

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:51 AM

From lurker donutogre....


I thought it was established elsewhere (game thread?) that Papelbon had alraedy begun warming up prior to Bay's HR.

#46 Foulkey Reese


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:54 AM

I thought it was established elsewhere (game thread?) that Papelbon had alraedy begun warming up prior to Bay's HR.

I honestly don't remember, but I do know that Tito had Oki on the mound to start the inning to buy Papelbon some extra warm up time. Hard to really know for sure whether or not it was enough time though.

Edit: grammar.

Edited by Foulkey Reese, 10 September 2008 - 10:07 AM.


#47 Snodgrass'Muff


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 10:01 AM

Does anyone have a breakdown of Papelbon's stats in one-run games over his career? (Thanks Snodgrass)


.200/.257/.335

But I'm not sure how, if at all, they exclude his few starts from that. Even still, it appears he pitched better in 1 run games in 2007 than he has over his career.

http://www.baseball-...i...jo01&year=c

#48 JimD

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 10:03 AM

In the past, Tito has shown that he will use late season games to see what's he got going into October - i.e., not pulling Pedro in the infamous 'daddy' game in '04, letting Gagne attempt to close last year, etc. Perhaps last night's usage of Papelbon was Francona seeing how his closer would respond to back-to-back save opportunities in a playoff atmosphere. Hopefully, Tito learned something and will next experiment with letting young Mr. Masterson get a save opportunity.

#49 Bob Montgomery's Helmet Hat


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 10:04 AM

I thought it was established elsewhere (game thread?) that Papelbon had alraedy begun warming up prior to Bay's HR.

He started warming up right after Youks walked.

#50 Quintanariffic

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 10:08 AM

FWIW, according to fangraphs he threw the splitter 13.4% of the time in 2005.

Right, but given that a signifcant % of his innings were as a starter, I'm not sure it's apples to apples. What were his % of FB and SL that year?