Jonathan Broxton has had some rough outings recently, and judging from the comments here he is the most polarizing member of the 2009 Dodgers. Overall, his numbers are very good, but Broxton seems to suffer from the comparisons to Eric Gagne, who put up arguably the greatest three-year run of any reliever in history, and to a lesser extent, Takashi Saito. Simply being one of the best closers in the league doesn't seem good enough for some, as it seems like Broxton has a nearly impossible standard to live up to.
Broxton took over as closer for an injured Takashi Saito last July 18. Since then, his numbers compare favorably with some of the best closers in the game:
|Closers July 18, 2008 to Present|
Since news of Broxton's toe injury came out, after he gave up multiple runs in back to back outings in San Diego and Milwaukee, he has struggled, with three blown saves in nine opportunities. His ERA over that time is a reasonable 3.14, and opposing batters have hit .192/.276/.365, but his FIP over these last 14.1 innings is 4.77. Still, if healthy, Broxton is the Dodgers' best option for closer. That is the million dollar question facing Joe Torre and his staff. For now, Broxton says he's healthy, and its up to management to sift through the bravado and see if he's telling the truth.
Another suggestion I have seen is to make Broxton the closer at home, but not on the road, where his numbers are demonstrably worse. I was quick to dismiss this, partially because Broxton's worst two outings were when he was hiding his toe injury, and were both on the road. However, I went back and looked at Broxton's 2008 splits as well, and even if we remove the two bad road "toe games" (in San Diego and Milwaukee), the splits are quite shocking:
|Jonathan Broxton Splits as Closer (minus the two "toe games")
A few things jump out there. First, Broxton has walked nearly three times as many batters on the road than at home. Second, he has yet to allow a home run at home as a closer. Part of that home run difference has to be luck, but the difference is still striking. The batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .235 at home, which suggest those numbers are a bit lucky, but Broxton's road BABIP is .299, so those road numbers are true.
Are 32 innings enough to draw a conclusion? Maybe, maybe not. I don't know. It does seem a little unwieldy for a club to have a different closer at home and on the road. Would a move like that affect Broxton's confidence, or are we too quick as fans to psychoanalyze our favorite athletes? Should Broxton be more adamant about having the grounds crew tend to the mound when he enters the game on the road? I am still of the opinion that Broxton is the best man for the closer job, home or road, but I will admit these are all questions I don't know the answers to, and the differences between home Broxton and road Broxton are wide enough to plant even the slightest seed of doubt in my mind.