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With Jonathan Papelbon primed for a big postseason Red Sox fans will enjoy a lot of the closer's patented fist pumping, maybe for the last time.
Jonathan Papelbon has a a history of postseason success, failing to surrender a run in his first 25 postseason innings. However, in the Red Sox last postseason appearance in 2009, Paps gave up three earned in only two innings pitched. Some say he had it coming, but it began to look as if the Red Sox closer had lost a step over the last couple of seasons.
Whatever Paps lost in '09 and '10, he's found it again this season. Papelbon's ERA is a satisfactory 2.85, but it's his other numbers that will blow you away.
His .913 WHIP is his lowest since 2006, when he posted a lights-out sub 1.00 ERA. His 70 strikeouts in 53.2 innings is good for an 11.7 strikeout per nine, his highest since he averaged 13.0 in his rookie season.
Hitters have been absolutely baffled by the right-hander, mustering only a .204 BA and a .545 OPS in 200 AB. Many people have speculated as to why, after two disappointing seasons, the sudden return to dominance?
One of the answers is control. Papelbon has surrendered only eight walks this season, a staggering improvement considering he yielded over 50 in the previous two seasons combined.
Another may be motivation. Entering free agency in the winter, Papelbon is setting himself up nicely to receive a lucrative multi-year contract, perhaps unlike any we've ever seen for a reliever. Whether it is the Red Sox on the other side of the negotiating table or not, Papelbon is going to get paid this offseason.
Papelbon's 2011 performance, coupled with his contract status, is sure to yield big dividends—and a bunch of ninth inning zeros—for the Red Sox this postseason.