For whatever reason, Jonathan Broxton has long been a lightening rod for diverse and divergent opinions on his skills and his suitability for the closers role on the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his 2010 season - divided into "best of times" and "worst of times" chapters - did nothing to stem the discourse.
For the first part of last season, through late June, Broxton was otherworldly and performing as the dominant closer many expected him to be. On the strength of that early season performance he was chosen to represent the Dodgers on the National League All-Star team for the second consecutive season.
But then a series of games seemed to tax him and apparently initiated a downward spiral that eventually led to Broxton losing the closer's job on August 13 and getting uneven results through the end of the year.
After appearing in only two games out of twelve due to the lack of suitable (read "save") situations, Broxton then began a five-day stretch on June 23 where he appeared in four games and warmed up in the other after he had been announced as "unavailable" in the pregame reports. In the first of those games, he pitching one inning with a one-run deficit, partially to get in some work.
But in the next three games, he entered to the following situations:
- No outs, runner on first, and a four run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning
- Two outs, runners on first and second, and a five run lead in the top of the eighth inning
- No outs, no runners, four run lead in the top of the ninth inning
These were not save or high-leverage situations, yet Broxton was selected by manager Joe Torre to enter each of those games, the last of which becoming a horrific outing where Broxton was allowed by the Dodger coaching staff to throw a whopping 48 pitches while blowing the save against Torre's former team, the New York Yankees.
Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness noted the apparent overwork with a brilliant comparison:
Broxton has thrown 95 pitches since June 23rd. By comparison, the Dodger starting rotation since then has these counts: Kershaw 101 (tonight 6/27), Kuroda 110 (6/26), Padilla 111 (6/25), Haeger 102 (6/24), Ely 97 (6/23). Because apparently, Broxton is a starting pitcher now.
It can't be known for sure if that stretch truly was the cause of a downturn, but a look at Broxton's statistics prior to that fateful game with thecompared to his performance afterward, can't help but arouse suspicion that that was the pivotal moment in his 2011 saga:
|Through June 26||32 2/3||26||3||5||48||0.83||.512||70||0.959|
|After June 27||28 2/3||34||21||21||24||6.59||.885||60||1.919|
Despite the rough second half, no Dodger pitcher has ever struck out batters at a higher rate for his career than Broxton has to date.
All-Time LA Dodgers leaders in Strikeout Rate - minimum 250 innings pitched
Rk Player SO/9 IP From To Age G
1 Jonathan Broxton 11.70 379.1 2005 2010 21-26 372
2 Hong-Chih Kuo 10.48 265.1 2005 2010 23-28 178
3 Eric Gagne 10.38 545.1 1999 2006 23-30 298
4 Antonio Osuna 9.52 327.0 1995 2000 22-27 265
5 Sandy Koufax 9.40 2119.2 1958 1966 22-30 335
6 Ken Howell 9.37 302.2 1984 1988 23-27 194
7 Clayton Kershaw 9.26 483.0 2008 2010 20-22 85
8 Hideo Nomo 8.87 1217.1 1995 2004 26-35 191
9 Todd Worrell 8.83 268.0 1993 1997 33-37 269
10 Chan Ho Park 8.28 1279.0 1994 2008 21-35 275
11 Darren Dreifort 8.27 872.2 1994 2004 22-32 274
12 Chad Billingsley 8.19 825.2 2006 2010 21-25 160
13 Kevin Brown 8.09 872.2 1999 2003 34-38 137
14 Jim Gott 7.62 340.0 1990 1994 30-34 272
15 Jay Howell 7.59 308.1 1988 1992 32-36 236
Broxton is in the second year of a two-year contract. He will earn $7 million in salary (details). He will be eligible for free agency after the completion of the 2011 season.
|2011 Projections - Age 27 Season|
|(Photo by Jeff Gross - Getty Images)|
Going into 2011, there are certainly things to be worried about regarding Broxton. Ignoring his cup of coffee in 2005, he sunk to career worsts in ERA, Hits/9 IP, BB/9, K/9, and OPS allowed. There is also the noticeable loss of velocity: Broxton averaged 95.3 MPH with his fastball last year, comparable to his 2005 and 2006 seasons, after having posted a career-high average of 97.8 the year before. But some bad luck may have also come into play because he had a rather high BABIP of .366 (Fangraphs) or .373 (Baseball-Reference) despite a line drive percentage that was very close to his career average.
I suspect Broxton will rebound to some extent even if he can't reach the statistical heights of 2009, posting a 2.75 ERA in 70 innings with a 1.199 WHIP.
What's your prediction for Jonathan Broxton in 2011? Give us your guess for ERA, innings pitched, and WHIP in the comments, and feel free to add any other predictions you have as well.