Though Joe Torre hung up his managing hemmroid pillow, he might just add another elbow tendon to the Predator-esque necklace he wears around his home. Stud Dodgers reliever Jonathan Broxton enters this season as the “capital C closer” but both Tom Jackson of ESPN LA and Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times believe Big John Stud will be on an incredibly short leash.
Odd, considering Broxton ranks as one of — if not the very best — reliever in baseball over the past three years. Broxton leads all relievers with 6.9 WAR since 2008, powered by his moderately ridiculous strikeout numbers. Everything went to plan at the start of 2010 for the massive stopper. He cruised into late June with a whooping 44/4 strikeout to walk ratio. He threw strikes, he missed bats, he held batters to a paltry .532 OPS. Insane.
Along came interleague play and with it came back-to-back series with the crosstown Angels and Torre’s old club and quasi-natural rivial New York Yankees. Broxton got the call on 4 out of 5 days, the final appearance a 48 pitch clustertastrophe resulting in 4 earned runs and a blown save.
Unsurprisingly, Broxton never recovered from this mild form of abuse. His fastball velocity dropped off in 2010 as did the juice on his slider. If confidence is your thing that surely took a beating as the Dodgers replaced Broxton with Hung-Chih Kuo for a series of save opportunities as the season wound down.
A decline in velocity and effectiveness doesn’t always suggest an injury per se, but it doesn’t take a massive leap in judgement. The image above shows Broxton in the classic inverted W pose known to wreak havoc on the tendons and ligaments of hurlers the world over. Which isn’t to say Torre is guilt-free should Broxton turn out to be injured or get injured.
Excellent as Broxton’s last three seasons are, his second half numbers are traditionally worse than those he puts up in the first. Perhaps the bullpen rigors are catching up to a guy whose mechanics put him in harm’s way at the best of times.
Being dubbed a team’s 9th inning guy is a big deal. Despite mountains of evidence suggesting the role is among sports most overrated; managers, players, and fans love knowing who emerges with a ninth inning lead. Broxton (and his agent, considering his impending free agency) surely wants the opportunity to rack up as many saves as he can. Hopefully he isn’t Ben Sheets-ing around next spring, trying to assure some wary GM that he is healthy enough to be the same guy again.