July 10, 2009

Papelbon Through 38 Games - 2008/2009

Jonathan Papelbon's first 38 appearances in 2008 and 2009, respectively:
DATE    IP    H  BB   K   BF  PIT P/INN
0706 37.2 28 7 48 148 576 15.3
0708 38.0 34 18 40 167 688 18.1

2008 .203 .241 .312 .553 0.51 1.60
2009 .234 .325 .352 .677 2.58 2.15
(WPA: Win Probability Added and aLI: Average Leverage Index)

Papelbon is pitching in (on average) more high-pressure situations than he was through his first 38 games last year -- and, therefore, has had a greater contribution to Red Sox victories.

While his strikeout rate has remained the same (down from 10.0 to 9.5), his hit rate is up slightly (8.1 from 7.5) and his walk rate has skyrocketed (from 1.0 to 4.3).

Papelbon has altered his motion this year to use his legs more and put less of a strain on his shoulder. On June 26, he said his arm is "feeling better than any year I've had" -- and that was due to the way Francona was using him.

Through 38 appearances in 2008, Papelbon had six games of more than one inning. However, three of those came in the first 12 games of the season -- on six, three and one days rest. (The other three were all on one day of rest).

Thus far in 2009, he has made only two appearances of more than one inning: April 11 on three days rest and May 4 on four days rest.

Francona suggested that perhaps expecting Papelbon to duplicate his 2008 performance is too much to expect:
There's been a few more walks than we've seen in the past, but I think it's more realistic, almost, what he's doing this year. What did he have last year - four walks, for a while? That's unheard of. ... There have been some instances where he's pitched himself into binds, but then he still has the ability to reach back.
I don't think I have to hit a panic button [regarding the increased number of pitches], but it concerns me to the point where I have to pay more attention to my delivery. ... I look at it as: Did I get the job done or not. That's basically what it all boils down to for me. To me, the efficiency, the pitches per inning, kind of takes a back seat to: Did I get the job done?
It seems logical for the team to sacrifice some day-to-day excellence in the hopes of protecting Papelbon's arm/shoulder for the long-term, but if the drop in effectiveness means he has to throw more pitches to more batters, are those long-term benefits being undercut?


John Smoltz:
I love when people - and I've already heard some of it - say, "Ummmmm, I don't know. I don't think he can do it" ... I'm amused by it, because it happens all the time. I can tell you thousands of cases where I've started off a little slow and people have said, "He's getting older," and at the end of the year they're saying, "Well, he did it again." This is no different.

If you're going to be a major league pitcher, you have to have a little bit of that chip on your shoulder. At the same time, there are about 10 variables that are brand new to me, including the catcher and including the league. It's going to take some time. ... This may not make sense now, but I can see down the road, if the opportunity for some pretty big games exists, what I'm going to be able to do.
Naturally, there will come a time when an athlete cannot keep doing it again, but I don't think we have any idea right now if Smoltz is at that point.

Smoltz says he has been working on a new changeup:
The game's going to dictate when I use it. And I haven't had the feel I want with it yet. But it will happen. It's my fifth pitch, and I'm certainly not going to use my fifth pitch in too many situations. The bullpen is a nice place to work on stuff, but when you take it out to the mound in a game, that's something entirely different.
Mike Lowell's workout on Thursday included "soft tossing, tee work and taking ground balls at third". He will work out today and Saturday and the team will re-evaluate him on Sunday. He hopes to be activated a week from today.
I'm really happy. The [medical staff] told me they'd be shocked if I didn't feel like everything was in sync by the end of the week. ... They assured me it was going to get better each day, and it has.
A Twitter post from Peter Gammons indicated that Dustin Pedroia may miss the All-Star Game to be with his wife in the hospital. Francona: "I'm not sure how to answer that. I guess there's always a chance that he couldn't play because you don't know what's going to happen. But the plan is for him to play."

Julio Lugo was back with the club last night after missing one game because of what Terry Francona called a "pretty serious family issue". ... Rocco Baldelli has been working out at first base, though he has never played the position in a major league game. ... Daniel Bard's last four outings: 5.1 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 10 strikeouts.


Amy said...

Those stats on Pap are very interesting and also somewhat reassuring. At least there is an explanation for why he seems less effective. If it helps preserve his shoulder for the post-season and/or for the long term, then I suppose it is ok, though I no longer feel calm when he comes in to close.

Edward Lee said...

Papelbon's looked far stronger over the last few outings than at any other point during the season -- the 97 mph tailing fastball is back. Let's hope it sticks around.