Jonathan Papelboner

Easy now. I would never, ever, use the word “boner” in a playful or sinister manner. A “boner” is clearly defined as a a foolish and obvious blunder. A stupid mistake, an error, a gaffe. I know what you were thinking, don’t play coy with me. Frankly, I’m offended. What I’m referring to here is Papelbon’s intention of throwing his Slider as often as his Split-Fingered Fastball [WEEI]. We’ll get to why this will be a mistake, after the jump.

Papelbon’s 2010 Pitch usage stats look like this: Fastball (69.3%), Split-Fingered Fastball (16.8%), Slider (9.6%) and he mixed in the occasional Two-seamer and Change-up. The reason we don’t want to see him use the Slider more often, at the expense of his Splitter, is because his Splitter generates more Swings and Misses while the Slider is put into play more often.

Split-Fingered Fastball Whiff%: 28%
Slider Whiff: 12.7%
More Sliders = Less Strikeouts

The method behind the madness:

“I remember being in Yankee Stadium, throwing a few of them to [Mark] Teixeira and one to [Derek] Jeter,” the Red Sox closer said. “I remember throwing one to Jeter and he check-swung. He got the call – even though it was a strike – but I remember him specifically looking at me and looking like he was thinking, ‘Where did that come from?’ From then on I said I am going to start using this pitch any time, all the time.”

So Papelbon is changing his pitch repertoire based on a facial expression Jeter gave him on a called ball. One pitch, one moment of ESP and the entire world changed for Paps. This has Boner Stabone written all over it. Papelbon is looking to bounce back from a down season, but he’s misguided. The issue with his 1.27 WHIP was the 3.76 BB/9 and increased HR/FB% (9.1%). Both numbers were the worst he’s posted since 2005. The issue is his control and a little bad luck in the HR department, not the under utilization of his Slider.

Hopefully Daniel Bard is right:

“We throw every day so I see a lot of it,” said Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard. “It seemed at times he would get on the side of it and it would have that Frisbee action and it wasn’t an effective pitch for him. The one he’s throwing this year, I don’t know if he’s gripping it different, but it’s got depth, it’s late. It looks like a plus pitch the way he’s throwing it right now. It looks like something has changed a little bit. It’s a later and sharper pitch than it was last year.”

He’s going to need a better Slider if he’s going to follow through with his plans. Papelbon’s K/9 has settled between 10.00 and 10.21 during the past three seasons and I had him projected for 10.06 K/9 in 2011 before reading this malarkey. Do I need to adjust this? Do we drop it to 9.75? Lower? Are all Bostonians like this? Joe Rogan says they’re savages. I’m beginning to believe him. I’m starting to think Papelbon is a dick.

PitchFX data is from Fangraphs
Whiff Percentages are from Texas Leaguers