2010 Player Profile: Big, Bad Jonathan Broxton

Jonathan Broxton is one of the best relief pitchers in Dodger history.  Yet, the big man with the soft voice seems under-appreciated.  Part of that is due to a pair of NLCS Game 4 failures in each of the last two seasons.  Another part is that Broxton has a set of unrealistic expectations thrust upon him, thanks to the great run of Dodger closers for the better part of the last decade.  Take a look at the past eight years, and look at the shoes Broxton had to fill:

Dodger Closers
Year Closer K/9 ERA FIP FIP rank*
2002 Eric Gagne 12.46 1.97 1.80 2nd
2003 Eric Gagne 14.98 1.20 0.86 1st
2004 Eric Gagne 12.46 2.19 2.05 3rd
2005 Yhency Brazoban    7.56 5.33 4.84 106th
2006 Takashi Saito 12.29 2.07 1.87 3rd
2007 Takashi Saito 10.91 1.40 2.57 7th
2008 Takashi Saito 11.49 2.40 2.00 3rd
2009    
Jonathan Broxton 13.50 2.61 1.97 2nd
*among MLB relievers, min. 50 IP (Saito had 47 IP in 2008)

In six of the seven seasons before Broxton took the closer role over full time, the Dodgers had one of the very best closers in baseball, with only a blip in 2005 (which of course we all know never happened).  Broxton had big shoes to fill following Gagne and Saito, yet fill them he did.  In his first full season as closer, Broxton was awesome, as he has been throughout his Dodger career.

Broxton is the all-time Dodger franchise leader in strikeouts per nine innings, at 11.92.  I know ERA isn't the best way to measure relievers, but Broxton's 146 career ERA+ is fourth in franchise history among those with 200 or more innings.  Broxton led MLB relievers last year in perfect outings, with 32.

Yet, what seems to be preventing Broxton from ascending in the minds of many is Matt Effing Stairs.  In Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS, Broxton allowed a tie-breaking, two-run eighth inning home run to Stairs that hasn't landed yet.  In 2009, again in Game 4, Broxton faced a slumping Stairs (four for his last 50) up by one in the ninth inning with one out, but pitched around him, walking him on four pitches, in a game eventually won on a Jimmy Rollins two-run double.  Broxton figures to be again among the best relievers in baseball yet again in 2010, but he'll need postseason success to get his just due.

Broxton has had some extreme home/road splits over the last few seasons:

  Home Road
Year IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP x-FIP IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP x-FIP
2007 45.2 2.56 11.82 1.38 1.53 2.49 36.1 2.97 9.66 4.71 4.23 3.17
2008 39.1 2.97 11.21 2.75 1.71 2.71 29.2 4.25 11.83 3.64 3.00 3.23
2009      45.0 1.80 14.60 0.40 0.45 1.03 31.0 5.81 11.90 5.81 4.16 3.54

Fun fact about Broxton:  On July 24, 2006, Broxton allowed a three-run homer to San Diego's Mike Cameron, breaking a 3-3 tie.  Since that game, Broxton has appeared in 143 regular season games at Dodger Stadium, thrown 147.2 innings, facing a total of 564 batters during that span, and still has yet to give up a dinger at home since.

Contract Status

Broxton made a total of $1.975 million in 2009, including incentives.  He signed a two-year deal in the offseason for a total of $11 million, which runs through his arbitration years.  His $4 million salary in 2010 is more than he has made in his entire career combined to date, and he can earn up to $500,000 in incentives in both 2010 and 2011.

Year Age IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP x-FIP tRA ERA+
2006 22 76.1 3.9 11.4 2.59 3.13 3.28 3.27 173
2007 23 82.0 2.7 10.9 2.85 2.73 2.79 2.99 155
2008 24 69.0 3.5 11.5 3.13 2.26 2.93 2.72 133
2009 25 76.0 3.4 13.5 2.61 1.97 2.05 1.93 151
2010 Projections - Age 26 Season
Bill James 80.0 3.5 11.7 2.36 2.38
CHONE 68.0 3.3 11.8 2.51 2.44
Marcel 70.0 3.3 10.7 3.09 2.96
Baseball HQ 73.0 3.2 12.1 2.84 2.60
ZiPS 80.0 3.2 12.3 2.25 2.29

2010 Outlook

Thanks to Fangraphs, we see that besides having the fastest average fastball (97.7 mph) in MLB, Broxton became much more of a ground ball pitcher in 2009, inducing grounders in 56.1% of his balls in play (up from 44.5% the season before).  If he can continue that, trend, coupling ground ball tendencies with an insane strikeout rate, Broxton looks to be as good as anyone in baseball in 2010.

What is your guess for Jonathan Broxton's 2010?  Give us a prediction of ERA, WHIP, and innings pitched.

I'm going with 2.61 / 1.046 / 76

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