Didn't see the end of the game last night live. But I've seen the highlights and read the following quote from Papelbon:
“The last outing that I had there were three bloop hits and a broken-bat hit,” he said. “You can’t do nothing about that. Tonight I could do something about that. Tonight was a totally different story. This has no correlation with the last outing, none whatsoever. It was just a simple fact that tonight I didn’t execute a pitch when I had two strikes and one out to get.”
God bless his goofy heart that he's so candid. It's part of what endears him to me so much. Remy supplied the additional information by way of John Farrell that the particular problem Papelbon had, both here and in Detroit, was over-striding as he threw, flattening him out too much horizontally and leaving his pitch, a splitter, up in the zone, where it met the bat of Lamb.
I decided to use my TiVo to see if I could compare his final pitch tonight, a strike to end the ballgame at the dreaded Dome (if that stupid ceiling can make Tek miss a pop up, then it is clearly the work of Satan and I wish ill upon it) to his final pitch last night, the one Mike Lamb turned into a two-RBI walkoff hit.
After watching both in slow motion a couple of times, it does seem that on the less successful pitch, he starts off hunched over, maybe you could even call it slouched, with his left foot further toward first base and home plate from his right than it was as he set up tonight. It's kind of hard to see with the center-field camera angle, but it does seem like he drops his foot lower on the mound and just the tiniest interval later on the pitch to Lamb than the one to Young. As Young swings through his fastball, Papelbon's legs are already starting to come parallel to each other, while as Lamb swings through the splitter his right leg is still up in the air.
They are probably still apples and oranges to some extent because they're different pitches, but with the second pitch he does seem to use his lower body to cantilever himself forward more efficiently than the first pitch, which he threw more with his arm alone. Or, at least, that's what it looks like to me.
And yes, I *do* take Papelbon blowing back to back saves this seriously.
Kristen wrote something the other day about his blown save against the Tigers that first made me laugh and then made me think:
It's best we get it out of the way now before he gets to something ridiculous like 40 straight and we start having fireworks and laser shows and he enters wearing a cape and a horned helmet and THEN he blows one. That'd be way more embarrassing.
Thing is--and I say this knowing I have repeatedly and enthusiastically enabled it myself--after a while even I have to admit that maybe Papelbon has been going a little ways down that path. How can you blame the guy? If you were a 26-year-old millionaire who was about as close to perfect at your job as anyone on the planet, who had also recently been treated to a ride through Boston on your own special float featuring the Dropkick Murphys just because everyone wants to see you re-create a dance you did while you were loaded, you too might start to think warrior-king garb was not too far out of line. Of course I'm far from informed enough for this to be anything but speculation, but that feeling has been known to make people get a little sloppy. This sloppiness in turn has a tendency to generate rude awakenings.
The term Bill Belichick has used for this process among his football players is Humble Pie, and it's often used to refer to his routine of showing the Patriots players only their mistakes during some film reviews, often after a win, to keep them from letting up on their intensity. Now it looks like Jonathan got a little of that treatment himself this week, though it was through the natural selection of the baseball jungle, rather than the habits of a strict coach. And while I will always look forward to the next time I can make an absolute fool of myself under the spell of his charisma at Fenway Park, even I have to admit maybe that's for the best.
Meanwhile: I don't wish injury on any player and certainly wouldn't wish a concussion on Julio Lugo, no matter what my distaste for him otherwise. So I'm not glad it's for that reason--but when Jed Lowrie hit his first Major League home run tonight, I was pretty glad Julio hadn't started. It might be better for him to sit for a while, too. Humble pie all around.