The Red Sox ended their road trip with a rarity over the past few seasons, an away series sweep. Doing it convincingly over a division leader is particularly impressive, but in true ITM form, we don't let Red Sox Nation get too excited for too long....
Enter Jonathon Papelpon. Once again yesterday, I was left sweating in the 9th inning. This time at my desk at work, I couldn't help but scream at Gamecast...things got weird. While Pap ultimately got the job done, he has yet to show true signs of the Papelbon of old.
To get into his stats a little, I'll point to a few comparative categories highlighted by the Herald yesterday:
K to BB: 2008: 9.63 2009: 2.55
WHIP: 2008: 98.4 2009: 1.46
Walk per AB: 2008: 34.10 2009: 9.45
SB against: 2008: 2 2009: 7
Pitches per Inn: 2008: 15.2 2009: 19.0
Where has the lights-out closer gone? I no longer walk away from the TV in the 9th to grab a beer in preparation to celebrate another Sox victory. Instead, I'm more concerned with Pap coming in than just about anyone else in our bullpen....when did this happen? I haven't been this worked up about the 9th inning since the infamous closer by committee attempt.
The media continues to point to the fact that he just isn't throwing as many strikes (including first pitch strikes) this season. His velocity is still there, but his mechanics were tweaked over the offseason in an attempt to save his shoulder down the road. Granted it's a tough balance, but perhaps there is a need to reevaluate the changes made. While the mechanical change may be relieving stress on his shoulder throughout the pitching motion, he is not only struggling to throw strikes and hit his spots, he is throwing many more "stressful pitches", known around baseball to cause damage in the long term.
Whatever they did, it's leading to moments of near cardiac arrest for Red Sox Nation, and these tense late game scenarios will only continue to get worse as we work our way through the season. Maybe Red Sox Nation should consider taking beta blockers when shipping up to Boston comes on the loud speaker.