It has been a rough year for Jonathan Papelbon. After nailing down 13 consecutive save opportunities to start the season, he blew four out of five in the span of a week between June 17-24. Even in his most rcent converted save, he allowed two runs to the Nationals but hung on as the Phillies won 3-2. He has allowed runs in seven of his last 16 appearances. Though he still carries an impressive 2.27 ERA, he is having the worst season of his career by defense-independent standards.
The issue is rather easy to diagnose: he is missing bats significantly less often than he has in the past. In 2011 and ’12, he struck out 34 and 32 percent of batters he faced, but that rate has fallen below 22 percent this season, a career low. His velocity is down, significantly, across the board: