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No Reason to Worry about Jonathan Papelbon

Posted By Bill Baer On March 10, 2013 @ 9:16 am In MLB,Philadelphia Phillies | 6 Comments

Closer Jonathan Papelbon has an ugly 27.00 ERA through three spring training appearances spanning two and two-thirds innings. Sample size, spring training, yada yada (I yada-yada’d over the best part!)…

Papelbon isn’t worried and neither should you be:

“I’m just trying to just keep my delivery intact, that’s it,” said Papelbon, who allowed eight runs in 1 2/3 innings in his first two appearances this spring. “All I try to do really is try to make sure that my delivery gets better and better as spring goes on. I don’t worry about velocity. I don’t worry about really making pitches until the last few weeks. Really to me, it’s all about delivery.”

He is traditionally a slow starter in spring training. His spring stats, dating back to 2006:

Spring Training Regular Season
ERA IP ERA IP
2006 5.48 21.1 0.92 68.1
2007 1.98 13.2 1.85 58.1
2008 3.60 10.0 2.34 69.1
2009 3.27 11.0 1.85 68.0
2010 4.22 10.2 3.90 67.0
2011 9.00 7.0 2.94 64.1
2012 3.86 11.2 2.44 70.0
2013 27.00 2.2 - -

The stats one should focus on with Papelbon are his exquisite strikeout and walk numbers from the 2012 regular season. He was among the best at missing bats and limiting walks last year, with rates at 32 percent and six percent, respectively. Papelbon’s one mediocre season in 2010 was due to a strikeout rate that dropped to 26.5 percent from a high of 37.5 percent (2007) and a walk rate that ballooned to ten percent from a low of three percent (2008). There was no meaningful change in his spring training ERA.

Papelbon also added that he suspects most closers suffer from his lack of interest, saying, “they probably all have had bad springs.”

While I didn’t take the time to go back and look at previous years, I did look at each team’s projected closer and their performance so far. Of the 27 closers to have thrown a pitch in spring, 15 have an ERA north of 4.00. Though of the 12 relievers to have an ERA below 4.00, ten of them have a spotless 0.00 ERA.

Player Team ERA IP
Jonathan Papelbon PHI 27.00 2.2
Joel Hanrahan BOS 13.50 4.0
John Axford MIL 13.50 2.2
Jason Motte STL 9.00 5.0
Joe Nathan TEX 9.00 2.0
Craig Kimbrel ATL 6.75 4.0
Addison Reed CHW 6.00 3.0
Jose Veras HOU 6.00 3.0
Brandon League LAD 6.00 3.0
Jason Grilli PIT 6.00 3.0
Huston Street SDP 6.00 3.0
Bruce Rondon DET 5.79 4.2
Carlos Marmol CHC 4.91 3.2
Steve Cishek MIA 4.50 4.0
Sergio Romo SFG 4.50 4.0
Jim Johnson BAL 3.60 5.0
Greg Holland KCR 3.00 3.0
Bobby Parnell NYM 0.00 6.0
Tom Wilhelmsen SEA 0.00 4.0
Glen Perkins MIN 0.00 3.1
Jonathan Broxton CIN 0.00 3.0
Ernesto Frieri LAA 0.00 3.0
Fernando Rodney TBR 0.00 3.0
Chris Perez CLE 0.00 2.0
Rafael Soriano WAS 0.00 2.0
Rafael Betancourt COL 0.00 1.0
Mariano Rivera NYY 0.00 1.0
J.J. Putz ARI - -
Grant Balfour OAK - -
Casey Janssen TOR - -

All the data really shows is that, in small samples, it is a lot easier to have wild fluctuations in results. But overall, at least looking at very early 2013 spring data, Papelbon is correct that most closers have ugly results so far.


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