No Need to Worry About Pabelbon
To date, Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon has a 81.00 ERA this spring.
That's the dent a six-hit, five-run, two-out first game like Papelbon's Monday against the Tiger can do to you.
Still, even if it's an eye-grab, it doesn't really matter -- even though it will likely persist throughout Cactus League ball.
For one, closers are consummate adrenaline junkies. Without real stakes -- like those of say, meaningful regular season games -- outcomes won't be representative.
That shows in the numbers.
Last season, Baltimore's Jim Johnson, led the bigs with 51 saves after going 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA. Meanwhile, Texas' Joe Nathan, was ninth with 37 in the months following an 0-3, 10.29 ERA February and March.
Granted, most of the rest of the lot of baseball’s top closers -- Tampa Bay's Fernando Rodney (48 SV in 2012), Washington's Rafael Soriano (42, with the Yankees), Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel (42), Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman (38) -- performed well last spring.
But they were all younger, unestablished players looking to find grooves or land jobs.
They were trying, hard, because they had to.
Another reason Papelbon’s spring isn’t worth sweating: Papelbon’s own history.
In his first spring season, he looked very much like someone trying to find himself, going 1-2 with a 5.48 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. In his next, before the Red Sox 2007 World Series run, he found it, sticking a 1.98 ERA in 13 2/3 innings.
Thereafter? Never an ERA lower than 3.25, and in 2011 one as high as 9.00.
In 2012, trying to establish himself on a new team and validate a four-year, $50 million contract, he stuck a 2-0 mark and 3.86 ERA.
Now, the attention is understandable. Papelbon's value to the Phillies can't be understated.
Since 2007, his second season as Red Sox closer, Papelbon's 222 saves rank second-highest in the sport, only to the jobless Jose Valverde's 226. He's also the fourth-youngest of anyone in the top 10 over the span, which includes 30-year-olds Francisco Rodriguez (No. 5, 188 SV) and Brian Wilson (7, 170).
He's also the only man to save 30-plus games each season in that time frame.
His durability is among the biggest reasons why. Papelbon missed 26 games in 2006 with a right shoulder subluxation, according to Baseball Prospectus' injury history, but has missed just four games in the six seasons since.
For the better part of last season, the Phillies relief staff was among the game's worst, costing them 16 games in which they had a lead in the seventh inning or later.
And that was with one of the most reliable closers in baseball history.
Simply, a team with over $174 million in 2013 commitments, $65 to three starting pitchers, can’t afford anything but top shelf stuff with the $13 million due Papelbon.
But don't fret the early spring stumble. Especially since, you know, it was just one game.