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Monday, August 25, 2008

He No Closer: Phillies 5, Dodgers 2

The battle here really centers on Jonathan Broxton and his atrocious blown save, and whether or not he's cut out to be the team's closer. Those defending Broxton have declared his four-pitch walk to AAA hitter Andy Tracy immaterial, walked away from his seven blown saves because five of them came before Takashi Saito's injury, and have even gone so far as to say (see comment 1) "I would imagine every closer who ever lived has walked an Andy Tracy-type hitter on four pitches at one point or another." That's easy enough to check; let us look at the Dodgers' own closer prior to his descent to the DL, Takashi Saito, and see just who he gave up walks to. The list is rather short, with 43 players. The only one of whom that stands out to my untrained eye as being remotely similar is the Giants' Rajai Davis, to whom Saito surrendered a walk in a tie game to lead off the tenth on September 29, 2007; the Dodgers eventually won that game 6-5.

There has been quite a bit of point-counterpoint over the last 24 hours regarding Broxton's fitness for duty, and I wanted to address each of the relevant charges separately:

For me, one of the most compelling pieces of evidence that Broxton is, at least right now, not yet ready to close is the fact that he gets appreciably worse as the leverage situation gets higher; he allows a .248/.320/.377 line against. This year, he's even worse, allowing a .288/.348/.375 line against. When the game is on the line, Broxton folds, and more so this year than ever before.
Of course, the problems with Broxton really just highlights the issues the offense had. The Dodgers didn't score in the tenth with a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation (Casey Blake in fact hit into a double play, and even missed a hanging breaking ball that he should have hit hard). The expectations this team had were unrealistic, and Manny and Blake's acquisition weren't going to fix the lack of power in other places, the poor situational hitting that seems to plague the Dodgers on and off, the team's increasingly eroding defense, and the suddenly porous bullpen.

ESPN Boxdodgers.com recap

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Comments:
Rob, you know as well as anyone that even elite closers give up four-pitch walks to AAA hitters from time to time. Sometimes that slider just doesn't find its way into the strike zone; but it's hard to deny that K-Rod is a top-notch closer.

The more crucial inquiry, I believe, is in how a pitcher fares in more highly leveraged situations. While some analysts opine that it's no more difficult to pitch an inning of shutout ball in the 9th inning than in the 2nd inning, many ballplayers will tell you otherwise. The 25th-27th outs indeed are more difficult to record than the 4th-7th outs of the game. Some guys just don't have the mental makeup to close.

Is Broxton one of those guys? Frankly, I think it's too early to know, really, and I'm not sure that question can be confidently answered until he's been given the job in Spring Training and allowed to keep it for a full season, rather than having it thrust upon him in July.
 
Maybe. Broxton hasn't impressed me that much when he's off, and that's the tell; Frankie generally gets out of those situations. Broxton collapses.
 
Rob, you know as well as anyone that even elite closers give up four-pitch walks to AAA hitters from time to time. Sometimes that slider just doesn't find its way into the strike zone; but it's hard to deny that K-Rod is a top-notch closer.

Sure. But that's not being unlucky.
 
Health vs home field advantage. Not this year, says Mike.
 

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