With the Phillies clinging to a 2-1 lead in the top of the 9th inning this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, the ball was turned over, as it has been for the vast majority of the last 3+ seasons, to Jonathan Papelbon.
Much as he has over those 3+ seasons, Papelbon successfully closed out the game, striking out Matt Wieters swinging to clinch victory for the Phillies.
This one ended a 9-game losing streak. So there have not been many Save opportunities of late for the closer. Still, he has managed to accumulate 13 of those for at team that has won just 22 times.
A vocal segment of the fan base has targeted Papelbon for criticism and derision during these last couple of frustrating seasons.
A couple of times, that has been warranted, as the big righthander is prone to emotional outbursts and unfiltered verbal honesty.
But those couple of highly publicized incidents aside, Jonathan Papelbon has been by almost any measure one of the most, perhaps the single most positively productive player for the Philadelphia Phillies over the last few seasons.
“The Phillies should not just give Papelbon away…it’s Papelbon and it’s everyone else, and the Phillies should get something legitimate back for him.” ~ Mark Normandin, SB Nation
This year, with trade rumors continually swirling around him, sending him everywhere from Toronto to Miami to the south side of Chicago, Papelbon has not only continued to succeed on the field, but has pretty much been a model citizen off the field as well.
On the field, the closer has a 1.05 ERA, 1.013 WHIP, and his FIP is at the 2.44 mark, all outstanding figures.
He has allowed just 19 hits in 25.2 innings, with a 30-7 K:BB ratio. He has allowed just one homerun, after yielding just two all of last season.
Off the field, Papelbon has been fairly quiet, with no outrageous verbal quotes, not overly dramatic antics, no public outbursts of any type.
He knows what is at stake, and when asked, he has been honest about his own and the team’s circumstances.
Quoted by Randy Miller at NJ.com following today’s victory: “Nobody wants to lose. Nobody in this clubhouse likes losing. We’re doing everything we can to come to the yard every day and prepare ourselves to win a ballgame.”
That is the kind of team-first attitude that Papelbon has exhibited all the way back through spring training.
Earlier this season, Papelbon became the Phillies all-time Saves leader. He now has 118 with the club.
And despite obvious lost velocity, he has learned to use his other pitches to get outs. His K/9 ratio is at 10.5 for the season, the highest that figure has been since 2012.
As Mark Normandin wrote recently for SB Nation, “The Phillies should not just give Papelbon away. He’s so, so good, and the vesting option isn’t a burden when he’s as lights-out as he’s been. Someone will make a play for him…it’s Papelbon and it’s everyone else, and the Phillies should get something legitimate back for him.“
Phillies fans should be actively cheering for Jonathan Papelbon at this point. He is keeping his mouth shut for the most part, letting his pitching do the talking. That pitching has been outstanding the vast majority of the time, and he has made himself a valuable asset.
Papelbon has done his part. Now it’s up to club management to do theirs.