Don’t Give Up On Jonathan Broxton

By Tommy Rancel //

Even before his days as the closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jonathan Broxton was among the few relief aces in baseball. In 364.1 career innings of work, Broxton has a strikeout per nine innings rate (K/9) of 11.86, a walk per nine innings rate (BB/9) of 3.56, and a home run per nine innings rate (HR/9) of 0.52. Looking back in major league history, only Broxton and Billy Wagner have pitched more than 340 relief innings with a K/9 more than 11.5, a BB/9 less than 4.0, and a HR/9 less than 1.0.

In 2010, Broxton is doing more of the same. His K/9 is once again hovering around 11.0 (11.41). His BB/9 (3.42) and HR/9 (0.38) are actually less than his career levels. His 2.37 FIP (fielding independent pitching) is the fifth best among National League closers.

Everything is good, right? Wrong.

Just last week, Broxton was removed from his role as the Dodgers’ closer. His overall numbers look stellar, but in recent weeks things have not gone well for the 26-year-old. Since July 1, he has allowed 12 runs on 14 hits – including the only two home runs he has yielded all season. He gave up just eight runs in the first three months of the season. Add in Hong-Chih Kuo‘s impressive numbers (1.95 FIP), and you can’t really fault Joe Torre for making a move. That said, it is not time to jump ship on Broxton.

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Currently, Broxton owns a 3.42 ERA. That is a full run more than his FIP. That’s largely due to all the additional baserunners getting on with hits. In 46.1 innings this year, he has allowed 44 hits. He allowed 44 hits all of last year in 76 innings. The good news is that of the 44 hits given up in 2010, 34 of them have been singles.

A groundball pitcher (46.1% career groundball rate), Broxton’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .364 is absurdly high. His career BABIP is .325, while the league average is around .300. Even with a career number that is regularly above the league norm, a .364 BABIP is just ridiculous for a guy with Broxton’s stuff.

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Speaking of stuff, it seems Broxton’s dominating combo of mid-90s fastball and high-80s slider has been less effective of late. Before July 1, his fastball registered a strike 67.4% of the time; the slider 78.1%. Since then, his strike percentage on the heater is down to 60.5%, and the slider to 67.3%.

If the Dodgers are continuing to use Broxton, they must feel he is healthy. His velocity readings have also remained steady through his struggles. With that said, Broxton’s troubles seem like an easy fix from the outside looking in. Whether it be something mechanical or mental, or maybe just a bounceback in luck, the big righty should rebound at some point. Keep him rostered as a high-strikeout setup man, and hope he wins his closer job back soon.

For more on Jonathan Broxton and his historic rates, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits

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