If 2008 was any indication of what a “lights out” closer can do for your baseball team, well I’d say that it is a position worth investing in. And we all know that Ruben Amaro has no problem investing a lot of money on talent he deems worthy. This past off-season newly acquired closer Jonathan Papelbon was deemed just that as he inked a four-year, $50 million dollar deal with the Phillies. Welcome to the Nation, #58!
Despite showing promise as a starter, in his first stint in the big leagues in 2005, it soon became evident that Papelbon was destined to be a closer.
In 2007, during Boston’s second championship run, Papelbon was electric, striking out 13 batters per nine innings, saving 37 games with a 1.85 era, and recording the final out to clinch the 2007 World series for the Red Sox.
Papelbon threaded batters with filth not even Oscar the Grouch could touch. Born to pitch, born to close games with unfathomable ease. In his first 26 postseason innings Papelbon did not allow a single run. Not a SINGLE run over four seasons, seven playoff series, 17 games!
A lot can be said about Papelbon in high pressure situations as of late. I am sure that every Sox fan still has engrained in their mind Papelbon trudging off the field after the biggest meltdown in Red Sox history. His last postseason appearance came in 2009 during Game 3 of the ALDS vs. the Angels giving up the tying run in the 8th, and eventually losing it in the ninth as the Angels swept Boston.
With all that being said Papelbon is coming off one of his best years statistically. In 2011 he saved 31 out of 34 opportunities, including a career high 87 strikeouts. An era of 2.94, a whip of .93, and an impressive batting average against of .207
Despite almost re-signing Ryan Madson to be the team’s closer again in 2012 it was clear that Papelbon was not far off the Phillies radar. When talks seemed to stall with Madson, the Phillies wasted no time in pursuing the best closer on the market, for a rate not that much higher than Madson’s asking price.
Although Madson showed promise last year in his first full year as a closer Papelbon, 3 months younger than Madson, has six full years of closer experience with a career 219 saves. Not to mention pitching in the AL East your entire career is no small task. As unhittable as he was in his time in Boston, I believe he will become even more unhittable to a division not use to seeing his stuff.
He has proven that he is capable of being a shutdown closer in a tough market, and a tough division. His best pitch is his fastball, and he will rely on it heavily. He has the mental toughness that it takes to be a closer. Moving to the national league will no doubt help his career and in return help a Phillies team looking for another World Series title.
So with no further a due, I would like to welcome the Phillies newest addition, and newest closer…….Jonathan Papelbon!