Quantcast 2013 Cincinnati Reds Baseball: Jonathan Broxton
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Is Jonathan Broxton Fit to be a Closer Again?

 

Cincinnati Reds hats & apparelWhen the Reds make their first trip to Goodyear, Arizona in a few weeks to kick off Spring Training, there will be all sorts of buzz surrounding a myriad of topics. Fans and media alike will be eager to see their new center fielder Shin-Soo Choo in action. Many questions will arise about the health situation of manager Dusty Baker, especially after Baker experienced a stroke towards the end of last season. People will undoubtedly debate the Redlegs’ chances at repeating as Central Division champions. But there is no arguing what the most talked-about story will be heading into Spring Training: flamethrower Aroldis Chapman and his much publicized move from closer to starter.

Even the most casual of baseball fans will tell you that Chapman has one heck of an arm and his potential will take him to new heights in the years to come. Take the Braves’ Craig Kimbrel out of the discussion, and you can say that Aroldis Chapman was baseball’s most dominant closer in 2012. Chapman earned 38 saves out of 43 opportunities last season, good for 3rd amongst all NL relievers. He racked up an eye-popping 122 K’s, which is by far the most amongst all closers. And if you’re more of a Sabermetrics kind of guy, Chapman’s 3.6 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) also topped all NL closers. So the question becomes: If the kid has proven to be this dominant in a 9th inning role, why mess with a good thing? Clearly, the consensus amongst Walt Jocketty and the Reds front office is that they don’t need Chapman to close games because they have an alternative. That other option happens to be Reds set-up man Jonathan Broxton, who they recently signed to a three year, $21 million dollar contract. On the surface, this seems like the logical choice for the Reds. The 6’4”, 300 pound Broxton held the role as closer for the Dodgers from 2008 until 2010 and then closed out games for the Royals in 2011 and the early portion of 2012. So he’s got a ton of experience, this seems like an excellent fit, right?

Wrong.

Again, if you’re just going to look at the back of the baseball card at his stat line, Broxton looks outstanding- Low ERA, high strikeout totals, minimal number of walks, etc. What you don’t notice in those numbers is how often Broxton allows runners to get on base, on how he has chronically struggled against right-handed hitters. In just the last three seasons, right-handed hitters are slugging an impressive .295 against Broxton. And when you consider that well over 60% of major leaguers hit from the right side of the dish; that screams trouble for Broxton in his newly acquired role as closer. Broxton was fortunate enough to get out of most of those jams last season while he was in the set-up role. This was primarily because he had one of the best defenses in the National League to back him up and get out of some tough situations. The game situation in the 8th inning is so dramatically different than the pressure-packed situation you’re dealt with when you’re pitching in the 9th inning with the lead. Now that he’s closer, those numerous baserunners will turn into a plethora of runs and a ton of blown saves in the process.

If you’re developing an opinion on the issue, ask yourself this question – If Jonathan Broxton wasn’t effective as a closer for the lowly Kansas City Royals last season, why would he suddenly become a good closer for the Reds? You always hear various sports prognosticators say that luck plays a larger part in baseball than any other professional sport on the planet. It goes without saying that Broxton may be the best example of this notion. If Reds fans wish for the end of every game to be so nerve-wracking that the stress eats away at your core, then Brox is your man. If you want to look at the facts to back it up, just check out Broxton’s numbers in his time as closer for Kansas City. A walk here, a double there, a single thrown into the mix. Each outing, he committed at least a few mistakes to make even the calmest of fans sweat. In his 35 appearances for the Royals last season, Broxton was able to notch a whopping total of 6 saves in which he did not allow a run, hit, or walk. He’s going to make things interesting alright.

Simply put, Broxton is an enigma that becomes more and more difficult to figure out with time. His once overpowering fastball has seen a demonstrable decrease in velocity in recent years yet he’s somehow been able to maintain the high strikeout numbers. One thing remains almost certain, and that is that Broxton will inevitably struggle to close out games for the Reds in 2013, which will force Jocketty and Co. to slot Broxton back into a set-up role and slide Chapman back into the 9th inning role. The bigger question isn’t necessarily will this chain of events happen, but when? The Cardinals, Pirates, and Brewers will be nipping at the Reds heels and won’t be going away anytime soon. Time is of the essence.

 

 

By: Kreg Miller
MLBCenter.com Staff Writer


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