Jonathan Papelbon Lacked Velocity in Phillies’ Walk-Off Loss

Jonathan Papelbon allowed three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning yesterday, allowing the Rangers to walk-off happy winners for the second night in a row. Papelbon allowed three runs on four hits and two walks. That Papelbon was in trouble again was not very shocking, considering how often he was found on the tightrope last season. What was concerning, however, was that his fastball velocity remained in the low 90’s where it was last season, when discomfort about his viability began.

As you can see in the chart, Papelbon’s fastball was consistently 94-95 in 2012, but fell to 91-93 last year in his second season with the Phillies. His pitch log from last night:

  • Adrian Beltre singles
    • 92 MPH fastball, called strike
    • 91 MPH fastball, foul ball
    • 92 MPH fastball, line drive single to left field
  • Alex Rios strikeout
    • 90 MPH fastball, called strike
    • 92 MPH fastball, ball
    • 77 MPH slider, foul ball
    • 92 MPH fastball, swinging strike three (out of the strike zone)
  • Mitch Moreland doubles, Beltre advances to third base
    • 91 MPH fastball, double
  • Jim Adduci singles to third base (RBI)
    • 92 MPH fastball, foul ball
    • 86 MPH splitter, RBI infield single
  • Leonys Martin singles (RBI) to center
    • 88 MPH splitter, RBI single
  • Donnie Murphy walks
    • 90 MPH fastball, ball
    • 90 MPH fastball, ball
    • 76 MPH slider, ball
    • 90 MPH fastball, ball
  • Shin-Soo Choo walks (RBI)
    • 85 MPH splitter, swinging strike
    • 91 MPH fastball, ball
    • 91 MPH fastball, foul ball
    • 85 MPH splitter, ball
    • 85 MPH splitter, ball
    • 90 MPH fastball, ball

Not even one fastball registered above 92 MPH. As we saw last year, when concerns over his velocity began, Papelbon needs a high-velocity fastball in order to survive up in the strike zone. His off-speed pitches are mediocre at best, and if his fastball is pedestrian, he will be untrustworthy in high-leverage situations.

It’s just one appearance, so don’t press the panic button just yet, but the right-hander’s velocity should be tracked with a watchful eye throughout the month of April. If there is no improvement, the Phillies may have to consider removing Papelbon from the closer’s role in favor of Antonio Bastardo.

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22 comments

  1. Tom

    April 03, 2014 07:38 AM

    Wow, should be 3-0. Is it possible that Sandberg is a worse in-game manager than Manuel was?

      • Joe

        April 03, 2014 08:08 AM

        So you don’t think they should have been playing for a double play with one out. The tying run came with infield in on a possible dp grounder

      • Bill Baer

        April 03, 2014 08:31 AM

        Leonys Martin is pretty fast, I think he’d be tough to double off on anything but a well-struck grounder right at the shortstop or second baseman. I don’t have any issue with the decision to play the infield in with runners on the corners and one out in that situation.

      • GregW

        April 03, 2014 11:52 AM

        No, it was on Sandburg for not recognizing that Papelbon is washed up.

  2. Renmiked

    April 03, 2014 08:29 AM

    I honestly don’t know what their options are with him. If they take him out as closer, he could become an even more miserable presence. This is Rube’s worst signing, in my eyes. Howard may be more overpaid but he’s not the distraction that Pap could so easily become. If he completely fails they may need to eat the rest of that deal.

    • Roger Freed

      April 04, 2014 01:36 AM

      Cut him, then let the Washington Redskins, er Nationals, sign him.

  3. Kyle

    April 03, 2014 08:41 AM

    At this point, I just blame every loss on Papelbon. He looked awful last night.

    • Aaron

      April 03, 2014 09:27 AM

      If you are paying a guy that much money, you shouldn’t be worried he is going to blow the save every time he gets up in the 9th. I hope the team has faith in Papelsuck, because none of the fans do.

  4. dg15

    April 03, 2014 10:53 AM

    At this point I say cut him and eat the money. This contract is easily the worst one by Ruben and is probably going to be the reason closer never get long term deals again. I’d rather have young guys struggle and blow games than watch a guy who is a poor teammate and makes that much money do the same.

    • adam

      April 03, 2014 11:10 AM

      Yea, he definitely threw his teammates/coach under the bus with his comments on his performance after the game. Nothing falls on him. I agree to just cut him or trade him for whatever you can get, kinda like desean jackson, except the Phils will have to eat alot more money than the Eagles did.
      The whole inning was kind of just one of those innings,” Papelbon said. “You get a cue ball down the third-base line, then you get a double play ball you think is a game-ending double play. It’s not. Just one of those innings.”

      • Dante

        April 03, 2014 01:54 PM

        That quote is nonesense. He walked in the winning run. That’s on him, not bad luck.

  5. Mark66

    April 03, 2014 11:29 AM

    Here we go again. The front office knew last year something was wrong with Pap’s fast ball. He couldn’t make it happen last year and now this year we are back to the same place. Fans lose again. Now we are stuck with Pap. No one wants a washed up closer. Not even trade able. Either trade for some one else or bring up some one else from within. Put him on the DL, he can’t help this team.

    • lanternface

      April 03, 2014 06:04 PM

      but who would you bring up from within? the options in the minors aren’t any better than Bastardo, who Bill mentioned in the article as a possibility if Papelbon’s role is changed.

      Diekman notched 11 saves in Allentown last season, but I don’t foresee him getting the job just yet.

  6. CK

    April 03, 2014 01:38 PM

    What’s worse is that when he signed Papelbon in 2011, we were just coming out from under the 3yr-$36 million deal that Amaro had given to Brad Lidge for his age 32-34 seasons. After seeing how bad that worked out, he signs Papelbon for 4 and 50 for his age 31-34 seasons.

    • mark66

      April 03, 2014 04:27 PM

      Let’s watch and see how much longer the front office tolerates Pap not being able to get outs and get back to 94-95 MPH. Get rid of him. Eat the contract if you have to. He will become a cancer internally to the team the longer you keep him.

  7. WayneKerrins

    April 03, 2014 05:51 PM

    As a Phillies fan who only lived a few years in the US I have to say that if a fading, overpaid, ‘name’ was hiding his own (probably unresolvable) inadequacies behind his teammates/management’s alleged failings where I live the f’er would be crucified.

    The reaction to this miscreant is very muted: in my opinion.

    Now if he could get his velocity up to 94+ I could get all forgiving…

    • lanternface

      April 03, 2014 06:15 PM

      are they supposed to tar and feather him after a blown save?

      the reaction has been pretty vocal and apparent. he blew one save, so a watchful eye and general concern seem like the proper recourse to me. if he continues to struggle and his velocity doesn’t go up a tick, more drastic measures could be in line, especially considering some concerns arose last season also.

      not crucifixion, though.

      • Phil Ease

        April 03, 2014 08:04 PM

        I believe his reaction was to Papelbum’s throwing his teammates under the bus after walking in the winning run.

      • mark66

        April 04, 2014 02:37 PM

        Who allowed the runners (all) to get on base ? He did. If you can’t throw 94-95 anymore you can’t be an effective closer. Since he can’t then trade him or put him on the DL. Let someone else who can throw hard have a chance. He has been the 2ND worst closer since last year. Case closed–make the change it is and will be a long year. We’re not out of it yet, but the longer we hang with PAP, well you get the picture.

  8. Waynegrow

    April 04, 2014 01:15 AM

    I noticed how Paps velocity began to decline last season especially after All-star break. However, I recall one game in September that he started touching 94mph again. Perhaps he does have a lingering injury? Beyond all this, though, I think he’s a clubhouse cancer and needs to moved. I’m sure his teammates are getting tired of his inane criticisms as mush as his blown saves!

  9. mark66

    April 05, 2014 02:59 PM

    In watching the Cubs game on Fri I noticed Howard limping as he was running the bases. What is wrong with him now ?? I thought he was totally healed for the start of this year. Does he have another injury ??

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