Wrong About Papelbon
Corey Seidman over at CSNphilly does some good work. His article on why the Phillies should probably keep Papelbon is not one of them. Seidman implies that Papelbon’s decline has been overstated and I totally disagree. Seidman glosses over the velocity issue. This is very important for a closer to has relied so heavily on his fastball over the years. He’s not like Trevor Hoffman who was able to get saves with a great changeup or Mariano Rivera who combined incredible control with an amazing cut fastball. Papelbon does throw other pitchers, but not as good as these other guys. Moreover, Seidman uses the number 92.0 as his average and mentions it’s the lowest of his career. But if you watched Papelbon in the second half of the year, you know only on good days could he hit 92. His second half velocity stats are not available to me, but I think we could safely say it was lower than 92.
Seidman tries to fool us with some statistics and states Papelbon’s ERA was lower than in 2010 and 2011. But, for whatever reason, Sediman misses some key statistical evidence. Watching Papelbon last year, you know his second half was the bigger problem. His splits between the two are very troublesome. His ERA for the second half of the year was 3.91 compared to 2.33 for the first. More troubling were the splits on his WHIP. Seidman says his WHIP for the year was 1.135, better than 2009 or 2010. But, again, let’s look at the splits. The first half Papelbon had a Rivera-like WHIP of .905. The second half? 1.522, which is more Mark Leiter-like. While his strikeout rate improved in the second half, his K/BB rate declined, too.
I can go on, too. Papelbon’s contact percentage was the highest of his career, meaning the batters were making more contact off his pitches than ever. At the same time, in no other year of his career did batters swing and miss as little as they did in 2013. Anyone who watched Papelbon struggle to get guys out during the second half last year could see this.
The fact that his numbers were clearly worse in the second half, combined with the fact that he was fooling hitters less last year, and the fact he had an attitude problem leads me to believe that the Phillies should, indeed, trade Papelbon even if the team didn’t save any money. It could quite possibly make them better with one less distraction. If his decline from the second half continues, his two remaining years could be quite a problem. He would have to be moved out of the closer’s spot, and you know he would not like that. He would demand a trade, but it would even more difficult to move him then. So while Seidman is right that they might not save any money in a deal, I think they have more to gain than just money.