Saturday, May 2, 2009

Calendar Boys: Where is Papelbon's Mojo?

Since Trinity College doesn't get anything more than basic cable, I couldn't watch the game last night on NESNplus, so I won't be writing about it (by all accounts it was a disappointment, so hopefully no one will be too upset).

However, as yesterday was May 1st, I had to switch my calendar page, and, being the obsessive compulsive fan that I am proud to be, it's a Red Sox calendar (obviously).  This month the picture is of the inimitable Jonathan Papelbon.  I'll admit to being a little disappointed last month when I turned to April (my favorite month, after October) and saw that the photo was of Jacoby Ellsbury.  Now, I've made my feelings about Ellsbury pretty clear, and the way he started off April didn't exactly inspire me to have confidence in him... if fact, I'm quite sure I dedicated at least one Off the Monster rant to his seeming inability be be a productive leadoff hitter.

Fortunately, by the end of the Month of Ellsbury, Golden Boy was was batting .273, which, on the surface, isn't really that impressive, but in the last two weeks he has been hitting at a .321 clip.  Perhaps that steal of home inspired him to not swing at the fist pitch get on base more often.  I'm convinced that once he learns to do that, he'll be a respectable leadoff man (meaning on base) and be able to utilize his game changing speed.

Now, on to my actual point.  Papelbon (Mr. May, on my calendar), has been somewhat less than impressive this year.  Though the closer boasts six saves and a 1.74 ERA, he has also allowed six walks.  Paps only allowed eight walks over the entire 2008 season.  He's also hit a batter.  Just one, you might ask? No big deal, except for the fact that he hasn't hit anyone with a pitch since 2007.  Papelbon has had an effective career thus far not because he can throw 95-98 MPH, because lots of pitchers can do that.  The Sox closer is effective because he throws at such velocities with pinpoint control, and has a splitter he can throw to keep batters off balance.  

There have been some worrisome signs from Mr. Papelbon during the month of April.  The control is not where we have come to expect it to be, and though he is first in the league is saves right now, it's only a matter of time before those walk totals come back to bite him.  There's been some talk that John Farrell is working with Paps on some minor mechanical adjustment: hopefully that will help him get his pitches where they need to be.  I would like it very much if Papelbon continued the trend of the player on my calendar improving during his month.  (Julio Lugo is in November... when this year's World Series is... gulp.)
Unfortunately, Josh Beckett's scheduled Month of Improvement isn't until August. David Ortiz? December. Oh, dear...

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