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Entries in Boston Red Sox (105)


So why not, Jonathan Papelbon?

With the news that Andrew Bailey is most likely done for the season, with Joel Hanrahan done for the season, with Daniel Bard having spiraled to the minor leagues, with Junichi Tazawa already having appeared in 43 games, the most of his career, and with the 38-year old Koji Uehara already having appeared in 44 games, the second-most games of his career, Red Sox Nation is crying out for Jonathan Papelbon.

So, why not?

Pap is the club's all-time saves leader with 219, ahead of Bob Stanley's 132 and Dick Radatz' 104.

So, why not?

Papelbon is the only reliever in baseball who has had seven consecutive seasons from 2006-12 with 30+ saves.

So, why not?

  • In 2010, Papelbon's ERA was 3.90
  • in 2011, Papelbon's ERA was 2.94
  • in 2012, Papelbon's ERA was 2.44
  • in 2013, Papelbon's ERA is 2.33

So, why not?

  • in 2011, Papelbon's WHIP was 0.933
  • in 2012, Papelbon's WHIP was 1.057
  • in 2013, Papelbon's WHIP is 0.905

So, why not?

I'll tell you why not?

Those numbers look really good, but these don't: 

  • 92.8
  • 91.4
  • 89.9 

Those aren't numbers on your FM dial, those are the 2011, 2012, and 2013 decreasing average speeds of Papelbon's pitches.

Here are three more numbers: 

  • 97.5
  • 96.4
  • 95.5 

Those are the 2011, 2012, and 2013 decreasing maximum speeds of Papelbon's pitches.

Here are three more numbers: 

  • 75.4%
  • 70.6%
  • 69.7% 

That's the declining percentage of the fastballs that Papelbon is throwing as he realizes that this pitch is losing its effectiveness. He is increasingly relying on his splitter as a replacement.

I'm not done

Here are three more numbers: 

  • 32.2%
  • 27.0%
  • 20.5% 

That's the declining swing-and-miss rate on Papelbon's fastball. The less you swing and miss, the more you put balls in play, and more balls in play, the more trouble you get into.

Let's look at two years 

  • Papelbon's slugging against 2011 pct. - .299
  • Papelbon's slugging against 2013 pct. - .329
  • 2011 homers allowed - 3
  • 2013 homers allowed - 4
  • Papelbon's strike out 2011 pct. - 34.1%
  • Papelbon's strike out 2013 pct. - 22.7%
  • Papelbon's pitches in the zone 2011 pct. - 50.0%
  • Papelbon's pitches in the zone 2013 pct. - 46.8% 

That last number is particularly telling because it's indicative of Papelbon's loss of control getting into the strike zone, which enables us to comfortably to assume his control within the strike zone is not as sharp, and since his stuff is clearly not as strong, Papelbon is losing effectiveness.

And it's getting worse

Since June 17, Papelbon has appeared in 10 games, won two, saved saved, blown five saves, allowed both runners he inherited to score, and has a 3.86 ERA.

He's had just two 1-2-3 innings

You can see why he's given up 15 hits in 14 innings and batters are hitting .273 with lefties hitting .333.

Finally, why not Jonathan Papelbon?

Papelbon is making $13 million this year.

And next.

And the year after that.

And, if he finishes 55 games in 2015 or 100 in 2014-15, he'll make another $13 million in 2016

So, there are many reasons why the Red Sox (and the Tigers and other teams looking for bullpen help) are in no rush to give up prospects and spend big money to acquire Pap, as much fun as he is to have around.


Derek Lowe Loses that Sinking Feeling

Derek Lowe has decided to call it a career after 17 seasons that included a curse-shattering World Series title with the Red Sox in 2004, two All-Star selections and career earnings north of $110 million. Lowe's money pitch was the sinker, which helped him keep the ball in the park like few others during his era. With 0.7 career home runs surrendered per nine innings, Lowe ranks behind just Greg Maddux, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte and Pedro Martinez among those tossing 2,000+ innings since the beginning of the 1997 season.

While Lowe's sinker cashed lots of checks over his career, it started to bounce a few years ago -- as in, off outfield walls and bleachers. Lowe's sinker stopped sinking -- and hitters started slugging.

Take a look at Lowe's pitch location with his sinker from 2010 (his last quality season) to 2013, when he coughed up three homers in 13 innings pitched out of the Texas bullpen before getting released.

Pitch location of Lowe's sinker, 2010


Pitch location of Lowe's sinker, 2011


Pitch location of Lowe's sinker, 2012


Pitch location of Lowe's sinker, 2013

Lowe threw about 68% of his sinkers down in the strike zone in 2010, by far the highest clip in the majors among starters who used the pitch regularly. That declined to 65% in 2011, 60% in 2012 and 51% during his brief tenure with the Rangers in 2013.  

With Lowe leaving more sinkers over the middle and upper portions of the plate, hitters teed off. Opponents slugged .400 against Lowe's sinker in 2010, .438 in 2011, .461 in 2012 and .514 in 2013. The big league average for starters over the 2010-13 seasons is .447. Lowe might not say he's retired, but his sinker says otherwise.


Lackey Solves Lefties During Resurgent 2013 Season

Entering the 2013 season, John Lackey was a symbol of how far the Red Sox had strayed from the "$100 million player development machine" that former GM Theo Epstein once envisioned. The erstwhile Angels workhorse, signed to a five-year, $82.5 million contract prior to the 2010 season, posted an 82 ERA+ during his first two years in Boston -- worst in the majors among starters who tossed at least 350 innings over that time frame. Tommy John surgery then wiped out Lackey's 2012 campaign, seemingly burdening the Sox with a $15 million fifth starter and a painful reminder of a time when financial largesse trumped clear-eyed player evaluation.

A curious thing has happened on Lackey's journey to join the likes of Mike Hampton, Darren Dreifort and Chan Ho Park in free agent infamy, though: Lackey, at age 34, is suddenly dealing again. The righty has lost weight and lifted his ERA+ to 145, which ranks 8th among American League starters and is the second-best figure of his career, behind only his Cy Young-caliber 2007 with Anaheim.

Lackey is no longer a laughingstock in Boston thanks in large part to his marked improvement against left-handed hitters. During his gruesome 2011 season, lefties pummeled Lackey for a .514 slugging percentage -- nearly 100 points higher than the MLB average for righty starters and the third-worst among all hurlers, besting just Bronson Arroyo and Chris Volstad. This year, lefties are slugging just .328. Lackey got scorched when he threw low and inside to left-handers in '11, but he's thriving in that spot this season.

Lackey's opponent slugging percentage by pitch location vs. lefties, 2011

Lackey's opponent slugging percentage by pitch location vs. lefties, 2013

Lackey is doing a far better job of keeping the ball down against lefties this season, increasing his rate of pitches thrown to the lower-third of the strike zone from 27% in 2011 to 39% in 2013. That, in turn, has allowed him to boost his ground ball rate versus lefties from 40% to 54%. The only righty starters with a more intense scorched earth policy against lefties are Doug Fister, Justin Masterson, Trevor Cahill and Jose Fernandez.

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