When discussing the best relief pitchers in baseball, you will rarely hear Jonathan Broxton’s name arise.
Mariano Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez, Joe Nathan, Trevor Hoffman, or Brad Lidge may very well be some of the answers you hear to that question, but there are more than enough reasons why Broxton needs to be regarded more highly.
You might remember Broxton from the NLCS last season. He surrendered a go-ahead, game-winning two run home run to Matt Stairs in the top of the eighth of Game Five. The home run lifted the Phillies to a 7-5 win and they went on to defeat the Dodgers 4-1 in the NLCS.
This season, Broxton has rebounded and been back to business as usual. Just take a look at Broxton’s 2009 projections:
76 IP, 14-0, 1.33 ERA, 36 Sv., 14.59 K/9 IP.
Those are not stats from Play Station Three baseball. Those are his projected numbers for a 162-game season, according to baseball-reference.
Thus far in '09, Broxton has complied 13 saves in 15 opportunities, which ties him for third in the NL, and is posting a 1.24 ERA.
This is Broxton’s first full season as the Dodgers closer. He took over the role for the injured Takashi Saito last July 18.
Big Jon stands at an imposing 6’4", 295 lbs. and has the power to back up that physique. Broxton displays a fastball that regularly touches 99 MPH. The soon-to-be 25 year old also displays a hard slider that he likes to go to with two strikes.
What has been most remarkable is that Broxton, with six wins, also stands tied for second in the NL in that category. That already surpasses his career high, four, posted in both '06 and '07.
Two of his wins have followed one of his own blown saves.
However, Broxton has earned four gritty wins in one run games at home. Joe Torre likes to bring Broxton in during games that are either tied or the Dodgers trail by one run.
Torre does this because he trusts in Broxton to deliver a scoreless inning. This allows the offense to have a better chance to win the game in the bottom of the eighth or ninth.
The strategy seems to be working, as the Dodgers are 11-1 at Dodger Stadium during one-run games.
This weekend, the World Champion Phillies came to Los Angeles and saw two ninth inning leads turn into one run losses. Brad Lidge blew saves on Friday night and Saturday afternoon proving, after a perfect 41/41 effort in 2008, that he is hittable.
Broxton notched his sixth victory on Friday, pitching a scoreless top of the ninth. The Dodger offense took advantage of Broxton keeping them just one-run behind, and Andre Ethier whacked a two-run walk off double in the bottom of the ninth.
Ethier followed up Friday with another walk off on Saturday, this time a home run to deep center field. Corey Wade got the win and added to the bullpen’s major league leading 17 wins.
The bullpen, filled with pitchers you probably wouldn’t recognize if they walked into your house, has been a big part of the reason the Dodgers are having so much success.
As for young Jonathan, he has become the leader of the bullpen.
It is probably unrealistic to expect Broxton to keep winning so many games. Let’s just consider he finds a way to win four more games this year, and winds up with a total of 10 at season’s end.
He is also projected to save 36 games. Let me take a second to say that I do think saves are a somewhat misleading stat, but as we analyze Broxton’s other numbers in consideration with the saves, they will further support his overall dominance.
We can adjust his ERA to fall more closely in line with his career numbers. In 2009 he has only surrendered four runs and on average, he allows 22 runs/year. Let’s estimate he gives up 12 more runs, because he is having a career best year, and has a total of 16 runs allowed in 09’. He is projected to pitch 76 innings, putting his ERA at 1.89.
If Broxton can achieve 10 wins, 30 saves, and a sub-2.00 ERA, he would be just the fourth pitcher in history to do so:
John Hiller (1973)
Greg Minton (1982)
Doug Jones (1992)
Jonathan Broxton (2009)*
Maybe those numbers aren’t enough to convince some people of his dominance. So how about this?
Left-handed hitters have struck out in 26 out of the 50 at-bats they have faced Broxton. Right-handed batters have fallen victim to the strikeout 21 times in 46 tries. That means he is striking out 49 percent of the hitters he faces overall.
He is also yet to allow a home run in '09, and only gave up two in the entire '08 season.
Considering the remarkable consistency Broxton has shown since debuting as a raw 21-year old four years ago, we can expect good things to keep coming from the Big righty.
I think it’s time we give him proper consideration and put him in the discussion amongst the elite relievers in today’s game.