What's wrong with Jonathan Papelbon? A lot, actually

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Lost in Dustin Pedroia’s heroics last night is that Jonathan Papelbon blew a save on back-to-back days for the first time in his career and blew consecutive saves, period, for just the third time.
Here’s what he said afterward:

I’ve got to go back to the drawing board. It’s just that simple. If I sit here and try to make things more complicated than they are I’m only going to hurt myself in the long run. I wasn’t crisp in my delivery. That’s basically it. I mean, it’s just like anything else. The season’s a heavyweight fight. I lost Round 3. We’ve got 12 rounds to go.

Papelbon is absolutely right about not overreacting to a bad stretch in a long season and the good news is that he recovered from blowing a two-run lead in the ninth inning to pitch a scoreless 10th inning and actually pick up the win. However, the bad news is that his ERA is up to 3.98, which is by far the worst mark of his career, and Papelbon is showing significant signs of decline in several other areas:
* He’s striking out a career-worst 7.7 batters per nine innings, which is 22 percent worse than his previous career-low of 9.9 and 26 percent below his career mark of 10.4 coming into the season.
* He’s served up six homers in just 31.2 innings, which is already the highest total of his career. Prior to this season he allowed an average of six homers per 85 innings.
* He’s walking 3.4 batters per nine innings, which is even higher than his career-high mark of 3.2 set last season. Prior to 2009 he walked just 2.1 batters per nine innings.
* His average fastball velocity is down 0.2 miles per hour from last season and 0.8 mph from 2008, which would be insignificant if not for the fact that Fan Graphs shows his fastball as being a negative-value pitch so far this year after being a huge asset each year from 2005-2009.
* His average slider velocity is down 1.7 mph from last season and 4.4 mph from 2008.
* He’s throwing his splitter far more often than he did in 2008 or 2009, using it 15.7 percent of the time despite the pitch not actually producing positive results.
* Opponents are making more contact on his pitches inside the strike zone than at any point in his career, connecting on 87.8 percent of their swings.
I’m certainly not ready to write off Papelbon as an elite closer, but even looking deeper than the back-to-back blown saves the signs aren’t very encouraging. Meanwhile, setup man Daniel Bard has a 2.11 ERA, .167 opponents’ batting average, and 40/12 K/BB ratio in 38.1 innings.

Report: Brewers have put together a trade offer for Christian Yelich

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Craig Mish of SiriusXM reports that the Brewers have put together a trade offer for Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich. He describes the club’s interest in Yelich as “strong,” and notes that other teams remain in the mix.

Yelich’s relationship with the Marlins was recently described by his agent as “irretrievably broken” following the trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon. His agent said Yelich “needs to get on with his career where he’s got a chance to win.” Understandably, teams have been calling the Marlins asking about him.

The 26-year-old hit .282/.369/.439 with 18 home runs, 81 RBI, 100 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 695 plate appearances last season. He’s in the fourth year of a seven-year, $49.57 million contract of which $44.5 million remains. Given how slow the free agent market has been this offseason, it’s difficult to say exactly what he would get if he were to hit the open market, but it is safe to say that his current contract is very much a bargain for his team, which only makes him even more attractive to inquiring teams.

The Brewers are an interesting team to get involved in the Yelich sweepstakes. Their outfield already has three capable players in Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, and Keon Broxton. Yelich would still be an upgrade, but the Brewers’ resources may be better spent in other areas like the starting rotation.

Given Yelich’s displeasure and Jeter’s insistence on stripping the Marlins bare — including, potentially, the iconic home run sculpture — it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see a trade happen.