Nationals Baseball: Papelbon

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Papelbon

Three important things to know
  • You don't have to be good to save a lot of games. (see Jones, Todd). It's getting three people out in a situation where you can have as large a lead as three runs and starting at a random point in the batting order.
  • You don't have to have a good closer to win a lot of games. (see 2014 Tigers).  While they will blow a couple games the truth is a good team usually wins games by a bunch of runs. Closers impact say 20-25 games within 2-runs? If they blow 25% of those that's 5-6 games and 25% is a ridiculous "replace me" percentage. More likely for them to stay at closer they blow 3-4 of those, 1-2 other games if they are bad. But probably 1-2 of those would have been blown by closer X and it's not like they wouldn't pitch at other times if relieved of closing duties, and it's not like if they were replaced entirely that the other pitcher coming in would be perfect. All in all the end result is maybe you blow 2-3 games you wouldn't have? Maybe? That doesn't turn a good team bad.
  • You don't have to have a great closer to win a World Series. See 2012 Giants (Casilla was good but nothing special.) or 2006 Cardinals (Isringhausen was not on his game that year and would be done in 2008). It's 7 games at most. It may not even come up that you need a closer.  Not saying it doesn't help. But you don't NEED it.

Papelbon is not pitching well.  Mainly he's not missing bats. He's striking out a lot fewer batters (K/9 down to 6.75 and trending down since 11.83 in 2012). This is backed up by a big drop in swinging strikes, a big drop in batters swinging at pitches outside the zone, and a big increase in batter contact. His fastball speed is down (and like K/9 on a long trend down though since 2011 - though to be fair this is what happens to every pitcher. Time gets all the arms except for Nolan Ryan). And batters are squaring up on him. This is backed up by a drop in opposite field hits and an almost non-existent percentage of soft hits off him (7.3%! You may not know that but that's crazy) This is why we see the percentage of line drives and fly balls that are being hit off him go up.

He's not going to get the big strikeouts anymore, but his control was pretty good before and might be better now (BB/9 rate is at a career low) and despite the hard hits he isn't prone to giving up the home runs and that hasn't changed. So scoring runs off Papelbon still will take a few hits in a row. In a game where generally only 30% of balls in play drop for hits that's going to be hard to do, even if you can hit it decently.

So will guys hit him? Probably. Will he still be able to save say 80-85% of his games? Probably. Is that good enough? Probably.


Hey what do you want from me? I always hated the guy and never wanted him here and root for blowout wins so I don't see him or for him to blow saves and have the Nats win in extras. This is the best I can, and will, do for the guy.

26 comments:

Bryceroni said...

And before the rizzo haters come out, let's remember the reason we got stuck with Mr. Papsmear is because of the Lerner's ridiculous "no adding salary during the season" rule.

Clip&Store said...

This game really bothered me, obviously considering the circumstances. However it shouldn't be forgotten that facing the same heart of the royals lineup two days in a row, and a team of their caliber, you could almost feel that it might be trouble.

Anonymous said...

Agree 100% with this analysis.

I loathe Papelbon and wish he wasn't here, but he is, and he's mostly fine. One thing I do like about him is the confident body language. Even when the house is burning, he looks like he thinks he can save it from falling down. I know this isn't worth much, but it is a nice change from Drew, who often had the deer-in-the-headlights look.

Mythra said...

@bryceroni: Let's also not let the Lerner's off for the $11 million dollars sunk cost stance one can infer they had that likely limited Rizzo's options on offloading the guy. By the same token, MASN fiasco still limits the options of absorbing $11M losses.

If Papelbon becomes ineffective, then maybe it's Rivero getting the call in the 9th. He has the stuff and seems unflappable in the jams he's come in and cleaned up or found himself in.

Rob Evans said...

Damn it Harp. How dare you interject some sanity into my irrational thinking after last night's blown save! lol

Great points though...

John C. said...

The Royals are defending WS champs, two time defending AL pennant winners and won 95 games during the regular season last year. Their entire MO is making contact, wearing pitchers/teams out and staging late inning comebacks.

Winning today's game would give the Nats a 5-1 start on the "road trip of doom." Heck, losing it would give them a 4-2 start. #firstworldproblems

Kenny B. said...

Came here to crap on Papelbon. Was disappointed.

If we're not going to talk about how much we hate the guy, let's at least all agree how stupid it is that "guy who gets three outs against random part of batting order" is a real baseball job.

G Cracka X said...

@John C. Exactly! Someone should ask Mets fans about the Royals' ability to stage late-game comebacks. It happens.

Papelbon is still, what, like 9 for 11 on save opportunities? That should be fine for now.

Rob Evans said...

@Kenny B.

Good work if you can get it, huh? lol

1natsfan said...

My question is how do you feel about Papelbon in the closer role in a post season game? He was brought here because the front office had no confidence in Storen in this role. Is he a better choice than Storen based on his current age and performance? A closer may not be that meaningful in the scheme of things during the regular season, but we had 2 playoff games blown by our closer.

Rob Evans said...

Here's a more pessimistic view of Pap as the closer...

http://www.federalbaseball.com/2016/5/4/11589492/nats-nightly-washington-nationals-jonathan-papelbon-ninth-inning-meltdown

Jay said...

I think the problem with Drew - though he seemed a great guy - was that he seemed to melt down in the most pressure packed situations. Imagine how much different the narrative of the Nats is if Drew gets the save against the Cardinals in 2012 and/or in game 2 against the Giants in 2014. Drew looked fabulous most of the time as closer, but he did blow those chances. An example is Sergio Romo who carried the Giants to the WS in 2012 and he was an 8th inning guy that was closing bc their closer was hurt. I wish him the best, but he melted down again against the Mets again last year. It wasn't unreasonable to think the Nats might need a closer. The problem was that they didn't get Kimbrel or Chapman. I agree that was in part bc the Lerners are a bit dumb (sorry, but not picking up Rizzo's extension already, lowballing both Black and Baker, not at least trying to sign Strasburg or more importantly Harper - all equal the Lerners are a little slow on the uptake IMO). They wouldn't allow an increase in payroll.

Also, the whole MASN thing as an excuse is a complete joke. The Lerners are one of the richest owners in the sport and are worth Billions - with a B. The entire mess of having to still sort out the judgement or arbitration is bc the Lerners wouldn't switch to a law firm not used by MLB. Everyone agrees the Nats will eventually get paid. The Lerners have the cash flow to lock up Harper, Rizzo, and Baker. I no longer think they are cheap - for obvious reasons, but I do wonder about how deliberate they are.

Anyway, I think Papelbon is as good as it gets at this point. There are a bunch of free agent closers next year - including Chapman, Jensen from LA, the guy in Pittsburgh, Papelbon too. Giving up Ross or Turner plus another couple of minor league guys for Kimbrel (which is what SD wanted this offseason) isn't worth it in my opinion.

I also agree with Clip&Store. He was lights out the night before. Hopefully, they win today and get back to rolling. The Cubs series should be a fun one. It's been fun to watch so far.

Chaz R said...

That was just a gut punch loss. But, it will probably not be the last one they lose this season like that.

I hate Papelbum, but I don't hate Rizzo for bringing him to the Nats. Rizzo was just doing the best he could with the cards he had to play. Regardless of how much we hate him, we are stuck with him. I'm trying to get used to it as I don't see any other solution.

cass said...

This is really the fault of Nats fans. If they booed him loud and constantly throughout every appearance, perhaps even disrupting the game by tossing non-dangerous objects on the field in protest, the team would be forced to release him. It's sad seeing the acceptance of him after last year.

I will never root for Papelbon. Haven't gone to a single game this year. If I do somehow end up at a game, I will boo Papelbon the entire time he's on the field. He is unacceptable.

Bryceroni said...

Another thing that bothers me is the baseball tradition that once the closer is in they pitch until they get the save or completely blow the game. Anyone else gets pulled before they give up all 5 hits.

Josh Higham said...

That loss was miserable. I wandered around my house swearing about Papelbon and ignoring my wife and baby (which was small of me, but I've apologized and they've since forgiven me). It won't be the last one like that. However, the Nats are going to win a few from behind and lose a few from ahead. To quote our favorite former manager, "that's baseball."

Pap's FIPS is actually under 3, suggesting he's been kind of unlucky, in spite of being the spawn of satan, or rather, observably awful at baseball last night and in several other appearances. The playoffs depend so much on luck anyway that having a lousy closer isn't much worse than having an elite one, should the Nats make it into October.

@Bryceroni couldn't agree more. Please put Perez or Kelley or someone out there once the Royals tie it.

ChuckPete said...

I concur with the majority of the sentiment about the closer who shall not be named; I had originally resigned myself to the idea maybe he only blew saves against the Phillies, like maybe it was a hat tip to his former team whenever we played them in a big spot...alas this appears not to be the case, he is capable of being terrible against other teams as well. I will say at least last night the Royals were literally hitting em where we weren't, especially when we had the shift on so there is that. On the plus side if we win today Harper's whole 2-1 vs 3-0 will mean we are good because the Royals are good.

mike k said...

The numbers in the federalbaseball post are pretty damning. Not to mention Papelbon looked downright bad last night...not a single, a walk, and a HR bad but hitter after hitter making good contact bad. The type of bad that doesn't just go away.

Considering the o-swing%/contact%/etc. numbers show such an enormous dropoff from last year, it makes me wonder if it's just a horrible month or if he's really just done. Also, maybe his walk rate is down because people make contact before he can walk them. Either way, it doesn't look like he's getting unlucky, it looks like he's pitching poorly. Which puts the nats in a spot...I'm not sure if Rivero is ready for the closer role, and even if he is, who pitches the 8th? Kelley hasn't looked great and I don't think you go lefty-lefty with Perez. Do you just flip Papelbon and Rivero? That seems like a "re-arranging desk chairs" move.

Apparently the Nats got the memo and are doing everything they can today to ensure Papelbon's services are not needed.

BornInDC said...

mike k,

That must have been some memo.

"Currently" at 12-2 as Harper breaks out of his HR slump.

Unfortunately, Strasburg has not looked sharp today.

Mr. Bill said...

@ Jay - I'll say this about the Lerners. It is not that they are "slow on the uptake." They are stingy with their money. All the examples you gave point to this. You make it sound as if they are not well-informed and can't make smart baseball decisions. They simply don't want to spend money that they don't want to spend - money management and costs set aside without losing profit, simply put. Yes, the Lerners are billionaires but they would be eating into parts of their $$ that they would rather not. Also, as far as extending Harper or Strasburg, the MASN deal absolutely plays a factor. Some of these teams with lucrative TV deals (not us)have a benefit of generating ridiculous revenue through that medium. Lerner Enterprises an incredibly smart business-minded owner that is smart with their money. Sometimes that doesn't line up with wishes of us simple-minded fans yelling at the gate outside Nats Park.

As far as management decisions, which generally cost much less (i.e. Baker/Black and Rizzo), this is no surprise coming from this ownership. It is how they do real estate transactions as well. Incredibly scrooge-like with their money, but its allowed them to buy a team in the first place. What makes them rich doesn't necessarily earn them the trust/respect of the fans of their team. Don't want to sound like a Lerner apologist, but this is just how smart money management works for them.

Also - in regards to us getting Chapman or Kimbrel - the high asking price wasn't money-related or Lerner's refusal to add payroll mid-season. It was that we would have had to give up prospects that we considered "untouchable." How are Kimbrel and Chapman doing now btw? I'm okay with the move last season, for all the pro-Pap reasons people already listed. That 2015 team was destined to drop out of the ALDS if it did make it to October. No one could have predicted Storen would handle it the way he did, but then again, the way he handled it spoke volumes of why the Nats felt the need to replace him in the first place doesn't it? Not much Roark in Storen if you ask me. Just my two cents...

Robot said...

Are we allowed to call this roadtrip a success yet?

Froggy said...

Robot~only if we win 2 or 3.

Hey Werth you suck again!

Robot said...

Two or three more?! Jeebus, nothing is good enough for you people!

Werth: Yeah! Your beard is as unimpressive as your swing! Both are scraggly and old-mannish!!11!!11oneone!11!!eleventy!1

Sammy Kent said...

Before anyone says I only come on here to complain about the losses or to bash Rizzo/Papelbum/Werth/the batting/Schu/player to be named later/global warming---- WOW what a great game yesterday!!!! After Tuesday night I was so PIZZZZZED I wanted a five touchdown game on Wednesday....and dang if I didn't almost get it. I love those wins that keep Papelbum in the bullpen. I would have loved to have posted my giddy reactions long before now, but I didn't even get home from a long day at work until 9:30 last night---and that's when I turned on the DVR and actually watched the game (or at least the good parts) before conking out.

I'm checking out for a few days. It's Mothers Day weekend, and my mom lives in the backwoods of the North Carolina mountains where there's no internet, no cable, and barely cell phone service. I'll have I hope a lot of happy Nats baseball to catch up on when I return. GO NATS!!!!! BEAT THE CUBS!!!!!!

Flapjack said...

Um... the second best record in the majors, a team record for early season wins, winning on the road playing certifiably tough lineups, and doing it while Bryce is in a slump, with your worst pitcher so far being... Scherzer. And best of all, we still have these villainous punching bags, in the form of the Lerners and Pap. Yup, we're in a heap of trouble. If things don't get better, we'll only win 110 games.

Donald said...

Great test for the Nats against the Cubs, who are not only the best team in baseball, but also hot right now.

Harper -- have any game by game predictions? It seems like today may be the Nats best chance to win with tomorrow being a push. Gets harder after that, I think. Would love to see the Nats take the first game.