Should the Blue Jays sign Jonathan Broxton?

By Eric Han

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports that several teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays, have shown interest in Dodger’s closer, Jonathan Broxton. Good idea? Bad?

The Good:

  • Career numbers

Any way you cut it, his career numbers are excellent. They stack up well against other relievers as well.

Among 33 relievers with 350+ IP since 2006:

–          2nd in K/9

–          10th in GB% (46.6%)

–          9th in ERA

–          3rd in FIP (2.72)

–          1st in xFIP (2.88)

–          3rd in SIERA (2.67)

–          6th in fWAR

  • His value is at an all time low

2011 was undoubtedly the worst season of Broxton’s career, only pitching 12.2 innings with a 5.68 ERA. It’s safe to say he won’t be having a huge payday, probably something close to, or less than, his 2011 salary of $7M

  • He’s looking for a one-year deal

According to NY Daily News, Broxton is looking for an “incentive-laden one year-contract”. Hmm… who do we know that likes to sign players to incentive-laden one year contracts?

The Bad:

  • His velocity
  • His velocity
  • His velocity (Yes, it’s that important)

Jonathan Broxton is the definition of a 2-pitch pitcher. In every season since 2007, he has thrown has fastball more than 2/3 of the time; twice did he throw it more than 3/4 of the time. Whenever the case he doesn’t throw his fastball, it’ll be the slider. 96.4% of all the pitches he’s thrown in his career have been either fastballs or sliders.

Most two-pitch pitchers depend on velocity to overcome their limited repertoire. Broxton is no different.

In his excellent 2009 campaign, the average velocity of Broxton’s fastball and slider was 97.8 MPH and 88.6 MPH, respectively.

In his less-than-great 2010, his average fastball velocity dropped to 95.3 MPH and his average slider velocity dropped to 87.0 MPH; both pitches experienced a significant drop in velocity. Along with the decline of velocity, his performance dipped: lower K/9, higher BB/9, more home runs give up, higher ERA.

In his injury-shortened 2011, his fastball velocity dropped all the way to 94.1 MPH, and his numbers took a major hit. He barely struck anyone out, walked nearly as much as he did strike out, and let pitches fly out of the yard like golf balls. To put his velocity into perspective, Jesse Crain of the Chicago White Sox had an average fastball velocity of 94.5 MPH in 2011. Now, Crain is a fine reliever, some may even call him a good reliever, but he’s nowhere near as good a reliever Broxton was.

All this is to say that, if Broxton doesn’t regain his velocity, he might never return to his dominant form. Broxton’s fastball/slider pitching style just isn’t effective with a 94~95 MPH fastball, especially considering that both of his pitches depend more on velocity than movement. His loss of velocity is a huge red flag, and definitely the biggest factor against signing Broxton.

FanGraphs has an in-depth analysis on Broxton’s decline in velocity:

  • His elbow

Broxton isn’t exactly injury prone. He’s only missed a handful of games before 2011, and most of them due to minor injuries. However, he missed nearly all of 2011 to an elbow injury, and he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his elbow in September. It seems likely that he’ll be back by the start of next season, and reports are that the surgery is considered a minor one, but will he be 100%?

My $0.02:

Signing Broxton seems a perfect move for the Jays. Get him on a one-year deal, preferably with options: if he pitches well in the beginning of the season, trade him mid-season; if you get no takers, just wait until the offseason and let him go for picks or (if he has options) trade him; if he bombs, you’re only a couple million down. The chance that Broxton returns to his old self isn’t great, but if he does, he could be a huge asset for the Jays at mid-season or the offseason.

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6 responses to “Should the Blue Jays sign Jonathan Broxton?

  1. or he could help them get into the playoffs????!!!!!

  2. Is it too late for him to learn to throw a cutter or a change-up? Jays have good coaching that’s been known for good change-up instruction.

    Old dog?

    • I think I read somewhere that he was working with some independent coaches to revive the changeup he once had. At one time he had a below-average change but then dropped it when he stopped starting. If he can get a feel for that again or learn to locate more efficiently, there’s no reason for me to think he can’t be successful again. I mean, his drop in velocity will likely only drop him to mid-90s with his fastball; that’s still above average velo.

  3. This study from HBT, http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/lose-a-tick-gain-a-tick/, show that, on average, a gain or loss of 2.5 MPH will result in a difference of about 1 run per 9 innings. If we assume that Broxton was a 3 RA/9 pitcher when he was throwing 97.5 MPH fastballs, he becomes a 4 RA/9 pitcher with a 95 MPH, even though it still is above average for a reliever. Again, it is critical for him to regain his velocity.

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