Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon locked down his fourth save of the season in impressive fashion this afternoon against the Braves, retiring the side in order while recording a pair of swinging strikeouts. He now has five straight scoreless appearances since his disastrous blown save against the Rangers on April 2.
Papelbon was asked about his velocity after the game, which Brooks Baseball notes topped out at 93.7 mph today, a marked improvement from his early appearances this season. As you’ll see in the video below from CSNPhilly.com, he’s pretty tired of talking about it.
Velocity obviously isn’t everything, as location, movement, and mixing your pitches all matter, but you’d certainly take higher velocity over lower velocity. Among other things, it correlates to higher strikeout rates, which means fewer balls put into play. This minimizes the chance of something going wrong.
This is relevant with with a fastball-dependent reliever like Papelbon, as HardballTalk’s own Bill Baer passed along this useful little tidbit earlier this evening:
While Papelbon is tired of hearing about his velocity, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg spoke about it after the game and told Paul Hagen of MLB.com that he’s encouraged with what he has seen recently:
“He seems to be picking it up a little bit and throwing his fastball. Sat around 93. He’s getting into a groove. His velocity is going upwards so that’s all good.”
Upwards velocity for Papelbon is a good thing? Interesting theory.