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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

NL Wins, Broxton Does, Too, Sorta: NL 3, AL 1

I was reading Jon's piece about Jonathan Broxton's redemption yesterday, and found doubt tickling me here and there. I haven't been a huge proponent of the idea that Broxton is some sort of overall failure, but the idea that he is this generation's answer to Don Newcombe is scarcely far-fetched. Both had fine, even excellent regular season records, but both melted under the postseason klieg lights. Newcombe, at least, had the excuse of toiling under today-unthinkable workloads, pitching 233.2 innings in his 20-win season of 1955 — and then falling apart in Game 1 of that year's World Series, to the tune of six runs over 5.2 innings, all the runs the Yankees needed.

Broxton, for his part, has fared numerically quite a bit better than his Dodger forerunner, but it's also a peculiarity of his record that despite being never asked to get more than four outs in any single game, he is overall 0-2 with a 4.40 ERA. Yet the fact that he has hitherto done appreciably worse in NLCS games (5.06 ERA) is all but exclusively due to his 2009 series against the Phillies.

Yet for me, the feeling will persist — as it did last night — that while Broxton belongs among the game's very good, it's unlikely he will break into the ranks of the elite, mainly because of his postseason numbers. I confess I was right there with others expecting him to gag up the lead; and when David Ortiz got a leadoff single, that felt like exactly the opening I and the rest of the skeptics anticipated.

But what we did not count on was Joe Girardi managing himself out of the game. Part of his problem was that he treated it exactly like the exhibition it was, and so his bench was rather depleted by the time Ortiz made first. His one option left to him — which he did not avail himself of — was A-Rod, but not only did he not pinch-run for the notoriously slow Ortiz, but he didn't have him pinch-hit for Adrian Beltre, either. There has been some talk — mostly on Twitter, from what I can tell — that A-Rod is nursing a sore something-or-other, which means Girardi was loathe to actually run the game as though it counted. And so the game, for Beltre struck out, and John Buck hit into the strangest fielder's choice you'll ever see: a 9-6 with the ball actually hitting the turf first. As Helen said at the time, Broxton owes Cub Marlon Byrd a drink or maybe several rounds, for he did the most masterful job of decoying the runner I've ever seen, getting Ortiz to think he had a chance at catching the fly. With the plodding Ortiz caught halfway between the bags, he was a dead duck at second.

So the game, with Ian Kinsler flying out to center to finish proceedings. The rest was surprisingly entertaining, though perhaps that has more to do with actually being there; I still rate this as one of the better All-Star games I've ever seen, and even have nice things to say about the Home Run Derby, too, which was far more fun in person. About the only bad thing to happen all night was the iPhone Facebook app failing about ten minutes into the game, which I at first thought was AT&T being censorious jerks; but subsequent reports from Huffington Post indicated it was a nationwide affliction, perhaps caused by a bit of bad Javascript. Also, I note in passing that the legions brought out their DSLRs, and hardly anyone seemed to have been checked for the official and ridiculously short four inch lens length. That part is nothing short of infuriating, and enough to make me renounce my season tickets.

Final bonus points: Matt Freaking Capps was the winner. SRSLY.

ESPN Box

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Comments:
That postseason log you linked to indicates that Broxton has succeeded in nine of the 11 playoff games he appeared in from 2008-09 (in addition to stranding two runners in the eighth inning of the 2009 NLCS Game 4). I guess if he had succeeded in 10 of 11 games, this wouldn't be an issue.

Seven of eight closers in the 2009 postseason blew saves. But Broxton is the only one stuck with the choker tag.
 
He also has three saves versus two blown, including a deciding Game 5 against the Phillies last year. I am not a big fan of the save stat, but I think in this case, surely the blown save is a big indicator.
 
But still, I think you're basically deciding Broxton's reputation based on a single game. If he had just not blown one of those two saves, we wouldn't be talking about this. And even so, you're holding him to a standard that no other closer - including Mariano Rivera (2001 WS) - can meet.
 
I disagree, Jon. Rivera has four blown saves in his whole postseason career, versus 39 saves overall. (They don't give, or I can't readily find, save opportunity stats, but I'm pretty sure that qualifies as a very good record -- 91%, roughly.) Yes, this is a sledgehammer, and no, I'm not saying Broxton isn't good, but even yesterday was a narrow thing — if Ortiz reads that ball correctly (or if Girardi pinch-runs A-Rod for Ortiz), we might easily be talking about another loss on a big stage.
 
I'm sure Rivera has also benefited from similar good fortune at times.
I still cannot imagine that, if Broxton had saved one more game in the playoffs, you would still be giving him a hard time. That would be 10 of 11 successful appearances - the magic 91%.
If 91% is acceptable, and Broxton is one game away from reaching that total, then how can you say that one game isn't what you're basing your opinion on?
 

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