The Perplexing Papelbon Problem

Wednesday night’s Phillies 3-4 loss to the Rangers was the kind that makes you want to scream.  It was a game they had well in hand; very winnable.  Enter the $50 million dollar man, Jonathan Papelbon:

Through 7 innings, starter Kyle Kendrick was great, allowing only 1 run.  Rookie reliver Mario Hollands totally redeemed himself from a very rough outing the previous day by pitching a scoreless, hitless 8th inning.  Papelbon entered the 9th inning with a 3-1 lead that any closer making $50 million dollars, the largest payday ever for a reliever, should be able to preserve.  That did not happen.

Papelbon has lost 3-5mph off his fastball since the signing and has yet to make an adjustment for his lost velocity.  He just keeps flinging the ball up there figuring he’ll get all the swings and misses of days past.  He was severely up in the zone all inning and the Rangers put a beating on him with 4 hits and 2 walks.

The 2nd walk was literally a walk-off win for the Rangers.  The 4th ball of the at-bat was not even anywhere near the strike zone.  How does a veteran pitcher walk home the winning run?  I almost looked like he just said “screw it, I want to go home now” and just threw the ball without even thinking.  This is a big problem.

After the game, here was Papelbon’s take on the loss:

“Obviously, this is a disappointment,” Papelbon said. “I thought Kendrick pitched well enough to deserve that win, and unfortunately the bullpen wasn’t able to preserve it for him. But it’s a long season. I think that’s one of the stronger points of my game is being able to bounce back and not have any memory of the previous game good or bad.”

So he is saying “the bullpen” couldn’t hold the lead?  Try again…the ONLY guy who gave up a run after Kendrick left the game was Papelbon.  The least he could have done was owned it.

And one of the strongest points of his game is a lack of memory?  I guess he likes to take full advantage of this “strong points” by blowing games so he can then utilize his terrible memory to the fullest.

But maybe a bad memory is not so helpful.  Frankly, I think Papelbon needs to remember what he did wrong and try not to do it again.  I know he was speaking more to the mental aspect of the game, but perhaps those words have a deeper meaning than he realizes.  If we do not remember, how can we learn from our mistakes?

Or is that a moot point and Papelbon’s career is to suffer a very expensive and painful end?   Not expensive for him, of course.  But the Phillies have him under contract for at least 2 more seasons, with an automatic vesting option for 2016 if he finishes 15 games in 2015.  That is a scary thought.

Yes, it is only 3 games into the season.  But this issue goes all the way back to last season and Papelbon has still not adjusted his pitching style.  Is he capable of doing so?  Sure, I think so.  But will he?  That is the real question.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

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