The face of victory...that, or the chick from the Ring just appeared behind home plate - Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
Jonathan Papelbon, for all his minor quirks and foibles, is still one of the elite relievers in the game of baseball today, and should continue to pitch well out of the back end of the Phillies' bullpen.
2012: 70.0 IP, 38/42 SV, 2.44 ERA, 92 K, 18 BB
2013 (ZiPS): 63.7 IP, 2.83 ERA, 83 K, 18 BB
2013 (Bill James): 68.0 IP, 41 SV, 2.51 ERA, 81 K, 17 BB
Contract Status: 2013-2015: $13 million annually, 2016: $13 million vesting option, guaranteed with 55 games finished in 2015 or 100 games finished in 2014-15 (from Cot's Baseball Contracts)
At the conclusion of the 2011 season, Ruben Amaro, Jr. set out to acquire the best closer he could find. Also at the conclusion of the 2011 season, Jonathan Papelbon hit free agency. It was a match made in heaven, and Amaro and Papelbon agreed to a 4-year, $50 million contract for the erstwhile Boston Red Sox closer to come out of the back end of the Phillies' bullpen. And he did not disappoint, at least most of the time. Papelbon's 38 saves trailed only Craig Kimbrel and Jason Motte in the National League. He set a new career high in innings pitched with 70, and his K/9 and BB/9 were both better than his career averages to that point.
So what can we expect from Papelbon going into 2013? First of all, he's not going to pitch 70 innings. You can thank Mike Adams for that. Now that Adams has been brought in as the eighth inning set-up man, Charlie Manuel is considerably more likely to stick to using Papelbon in the ninth inning and only the ninth inning, for better or worse.
Also, don't let the recent Spring Training outing against Detroit fool you; the home runs are probably going to come down, even if it's just a little bit. Papelbon's susceptibility to the long ball spiked after his switch to the National League, as he posted a HR/9 of 1.0 in 2012, much higher than his career rate of 0.6. Whether that can be attributed to him grooving more pitches, or to OFJOAB, or to just plain bad luck (his HR/FB ratio was also well above his career norms) is somewhat of a mystery, but I tend to lean towards the latter. I mean seriously, how do you give up a home run to Jordany Valdespin for any reason other than bad luck? Most projections indicate Papelbon putting up a HR/9 somewhere between 0.8 and 0.9 in 2013, a little bit closer to what he maintained while in Boston.
Overall, Jonathan Papelbon should continue to show the dominance that made him an elite closer in Boston and that prompted Ruben Amaro, Jr. to pay an exorbitant amount of money to pitch for Philadelphia. In short, the ninth inning is still going to take an exceptionally long time to finish.