Tag Archives: Jonathan Broxton

A Brief Conversation with Casey Blake About Hitting and Fastballs

I asked Casey Blake today to tell me some secrets he has about hitting fastballs and he said, smiling, “I’m not gonna give away some of my secrets.”

Regardless, I asked him a couple questions about hitting fastballs, and basically he said this:

Hitting a 90 mph fastball with a lot of movement is harder than hitting a 95 mph fastball with medium movement.

But hitting a 100 mph fastball, regardless of break, is harder than both.

His exact words were “100 is 100, man.”

Casey Blake, mind you, is well past the age of 30, but still does well against fastballs. If Blake were Indiana Jones, 100 mph fastballs would be his snakes.

I then asked him who has the hardest fastball to hit in the majors, and he said after a mild hesitation Josh Johnson. Interestingly, Johnson doesn’t have the raw speed that Blake hates (why’d it have to be 100 mph fastballs??), but that’s mostly because of his use as a starter.

There’s a huge difference between what a pitcher hits on a radar gun in a vacuum and what a pitcher hits on a radar gun in the middle of a full season.

Johnson’s fastball averages in the mid-90s, which is almost tops among the majors, but its his movement that drives batters nuts.

Johnson's Pitch F/X Aug. 1 2010

Johnson's Pitch F/X Aug. 1 2010

11 vertical inches is INSANE movement, almost wiffle ball-esque.  Then couple that with the two-seamer’s 10 inches and slightly more horizontal movement and, well, that’s a hard-ass pitch to hit.

That Aug. 1 game was against the Padres, who seemingly hit Johnson well because he had trouble locating (4 walks in 5.2 innings tied a season high).

Fortunately, Blake hasn’t had to face Jonathan Broxton who, in his better times, has Johnson’s movement AND 100 mph.

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Broxton’s Return: Velocity is Back, Movement is Not (Plus Some Kenley Jansen Stuff).

If you saw Jonathan Broxton‘s performance on Saturday, you were probably a little relieved. Broxton faced eight batters, gave up no hits and got six outs. The two walks made it interesting, but that seemed to be a little rust he was shaking off as they came against two of the first three batters.

The point, though, is that nobody really touched Broxton’s stuff. (All graphs provided by BrooksBaseball.net, please go visit their site and say thank you for all of the info).

Broxton's Box Score July 24, 2010

I don’t understand the bunt groundout–I do, but it was a silly move with Reyes at bat–but after the bunt, he got two strikeouts and three groundouts. Nobody hit anything to the outfield, which is lightyears better than he did last week, and best of all he mixed in his slider.

The funny thing is the velocity on his fastball is there, but the movement isn’t.

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Broxton’s Got 99 (mph) Problems and That Pitch is One

Suffice to say being at last night’s game was horrific, since I was just there as a fan. And I was surrounded by Giants fans. And I was with my brother, who was basically in town for this game. And that’ll be the only game I get to see with him all year, unless the Dodgers make the playoffs.

Ech.

Anyway, strange managerial decisions aside, Jonathan Broxton threw 12 pitches last night before the Mound Incident That Shall Never Be Mentioned Again and it’s likely Broxton’s on the verge of being broken. I’m not saying this solely because of last night’s performance, but because of a lot of different things.

As I said about Sunday’s game, Broxton had the stuff, he was just getting hit (more on why he was getting hit below). Can’t really complain about that sort of thing, only thing that you can complain about is that he was in there for 44 pitches.

So the fans were told Broxton wouldn’t be used Monday or Tuesday, and here he was, on the mound on Tuesday.

Broxton’s velocity rate has been down all season, as LAist’s Jimmy Bramlett pointed out on Twitter.

This graph may break some borders, so if you’re having trouble viewing it, right click, “copy image location” and “paste” into an open browser.

Broxton's fastball speed 2006-2010

That one on the far right is the Sunday performance; this graph wasn’t updated for yesterday’s game. Sunday’s game is the only one that touches 100 so far this year, compared to the 12 times the fastball touched or went over 100 in 2009.

You’ll notice his fastball velocity is significantly down overall in 2010, which isn’t a huge deal considering how much Broxton was owning through game 74. I wouldn’t criticize that first big chunk of the season because Broxton was killing it then with a huge K/BB, a tiny hits/9 (26 in 32.2 innings) and basically no runs allowed.

In other words, he may have sacrificed some velocity intentionally for control. If that’s the case, keep doing what you’re doing, kid.

But the biggest problem is that tail end, right before the All-Star Break–that small chunk before the July 20th appearance. Where he was topping out at 98 or so at the start of the season, he began topping out at 96 and averaging well-below 95 during the Marlins and Cubs serieses. Broxton has had games where his average fastball velocity was below 95, but you can see for yourself, he’s never had a several-game span like that. Not since 2007 anyway.

Now fastball speed and movement isn’t everything to all pitchers, but it’s a lot to Broxton, who throws his fastball 75% of the time. Just so you can get an idea of how dramatic the drop is, here’s his pitch speeds for his three major pitches (four-seam fastball, slider and change-up):

Broxton pitch speeds 2007-2010 (7-21-10)

And with less velocity comes less movement. Here’s the movement from Sunday’s game:

Broxton's PitchF/X July 18, 2010

Broxton's PitchF/X July 18, 2010

On the final at-bat of that game, Broxton threw three fastballs to Matt Holliday and all three were 97.5 miles per hour with 9.5 inches of vertical movement. That Holliday got one is more a testiment to Holliday’s skill set (and slightly a testiment to Andre Ethier’s lack of range, when he was unable to catch the flyball that was hit behind him to the warning track).

*As an aside, looking over the pitches that were hit, it seems Holliday and Craig sat on the fastball, which is the only pitch Broxton threw to either of them, until he threw it down the middle. The one Holliday hit was 97, high and down the middle; Craig’s was half of a foot from down the middle of the plate. Looks like control over the pitch cost Broxton, though both Holliday’s and Craig’s hits were fieldable outs. They might have just gotten lucky, too. Such is the problem of a nine-pitch, two-at-bat sample size

And then here’s yesterday’s:

Broxton's PitchF/X July 20, 2010

Broxton's PitchF/X July 20, 2010

Much less speed, much less movement. And worst of all, the numbers are horribly misleading. Broxton faced the bottom of the Giants’ order and gave up a groundball infield single and a walk on a decent 3-2 pitch to put runners on first and second. I don’t know if Broxton would’ve been shelled for the rest of the inning if he continued on, but he was bound to face Andreas Torres and maybe even Buster Posey.

That being said, let’s move onto problem no. 2: Broxton’s BABIP is way, way above both career and league norms, and judging from the number of singles he’s given up this season, you probably could’ve guessed that:

Broxton's BABIP 2005-2010

Broxton's BABIP 2005-2010

I was gonna write a bit about how if velocity and movement continue to drop, Broxton will give up more extra-base hits, but it seems to be the opposite. The more it drops, the more singles he allows. And it’s entirely possible that that velocity drop is what’s skewing his BABIP. In the 7.1 innings he’s pitched since June 27 (the blown save against the Yankees), he’s allowed 13 hits, 6 walks (for 11 runs, all earned) and given up only one double, one triple and one home run. That home run was in a garbage time appearance in a 14-1 rout over the D-Backs and it was his first allowed all season.

The biggest problem, and the most telling one, is that his K/BB was 7:5 (minus last night’s IBB) in those innings. Compare this to the 48:5 ratio earlier in the season and you can see some of the picture.* And he only gave up 26 hits in those first ~33 innings he threw vs. the 13 in the 7.1 since? Small sample size and all, yeah, but it looks like he’s lost some control in addition to the velocity drop.

All these things seem to suggest Broxton’s lost his fastball as an out pitch.

Other bloggers are complaining that Broxton’s problems are due to abuse by the management, and with due reasoning. Though his average days of rest is the same as last year (1.6), Broxton has been seen warming up in the bullpen repeatedly on his days off. He’s had two weeks this season where he was either brought in or warming up for six consecutive days. If abuse is really the problem, it’d be interesting to see what would happen if he went on the DL for 15 days and was used properly from that point on.

As for now, Broxton isn’t just suffering bad BABIP luck, though that’s not helping. Something’s seriously wrong and it needs to be fixed, unless Broxton becomes another name in the trail of dead arms. A trip to the DL followed by some proper bullpen use by Joe Torre would help a lot, I think.

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The Joe Torre Theorem

Jonathan Broxton didn’t have a bad outing on Sunday. Looking back on his PitchF/X from yesterday vs. previous outings, it looks like Broxton’s stuff was working just fine. His fastball peaked at 100 mph and The zone was tight (five called balls were on the outer edges of the zone) and no batters swung at Broxton’s fastball up and in. Frankly, Brox had a great outing, the Cardinals were just hitting him (and also Andre Ethier couldn’t catch a deep fly ball).

And look, Broxton’s fastball was back up to 100!! That’s great news!

On Twitter, I made a few complaints that weren’t accurate, but suffice to say that Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness and Memories of Kevin Malone said it best: if you’re gonna be mad about Sunday’s game, be mad at Broxton for that performance, but know he’s been good all season. There’s no reason to circle the wagons and there’s nobody in that bullpen that could replace his production.

Know that any attacks on Broxton’s “choking” are impotent because no one but Broxton, and maybe a few people in the dugout, really knows what’s going on in Broxton’s head. On top of that, Broxton’s had several one-run saves earlier this season and gave up no hits or walks.

With no further ado, here’s the Joe Torre Theorem. As better-than-replacement pitchers in the bullpen approaches zero, bullpen ERA approaches infinity.

Joe Torre Theorem
Where Y-axis is ERA and X is the number of bullpen relievers above average.

The team most affected by this right now is the Diamondbacks, whose team ERA was above 6 at one point this season, but now the question is posed to the Dodgers. So far, the team has seen Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, George Sherrill and Cory Wade fall in effectiveness. All were above-average relievers and all are doing terribly today. As Broxton’s effectiveness wanes, only one reliever is above average: Hong Chih Kuo. Right now, the Dodgers’ bullpen ERA is at 3.85, where do you think it’ll be at the end of the season?

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Good News and Bad News about Jonathan Broxton

I was at last night’s game and I was at the Sunday game against the Yankees. After Jonathan Broxton allowed two runs, yes, I had horrible flashbacks to that Yankees game and fortunately the game ended (mostly because the Cubs are not the Yankees).

Worse, Broxton wasn’t really needed at THAT point. Another reliever probably could’ve given up two runs and gotten an out or two, at which point Broxton would’ve been at least more necessary. Furthermore, Broxton pitched the game before and Hong-Chih Kuo hasn’t had an appearance since July 4.

Broxton has had a lot more up moments this year than down, but as his numbers stabilize, the picture comes more into focus.

Bad News: Broxton’s career HR/FB rate is 7.2 and it’s at 3.3 right now. In 2008, he had a 3.8 rate, and in 2009, a 9.8 rate, so yes, it fluctuates wildly, but there might be some correction for that later in the year.

Good News: Broxton’s BABIP right now is way above average. You might have noticed this at the games, but he’s been giving up some weak line drives for hits. It’s in the .380s range and his average is .326.

Bad News: Torre has either had him warming up or throwing in the game for six consecutive games. This severely affected his fastball speed:

Broxton PitchFX July 9, 2010

Broxton PitchFX July 9, 2010

Compared to earlier in the season, I randomly picked from June 4, where he pitched one inning after pitching only once in the previous three days.

Broxton PitchFX June 4, 2010

Broxton PitchFX June 4, 2010

The evidence speaks for itself.

Good News: Some rest would likely restore him and Joe Torre has already said today that Broxton will be unavailable.

Bad News: The scary part is what happens for the rest of the season. Torre has all but said he doesn’t trust any other pitchers out of the bullpen and this past week only solidified that. Hopefully he doesn’t wear down Broxton until he’s useless.

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Dodgers avoid arb. with all of their eligibles

Maybe it’s time to give some credit to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.

The Dodgers’ situation this off-season has so far been the most interesting, what with the McCourts’ divorce and the team’s inability to spend money as a result.  However, Ned Colletti and company have been creative.  Kicking Juan Pierre to the White Sox in exchange for paying some of his contract and getting a genuine relief prospect out of it was … I want to say impressive, but I get the feeling Colletti stumbled into that one, so I’ll say lucky.  Then last week, the Dodgers came to agreements with key 2009 players Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley.  Colletti and company then avoided arbitration with almost all of their young talent: Kuo, Loney and Sherrill.

And today, Andre Ethier agreed to a two-year deal, pending a physical, according to Ken Gurnick.

Baseball Prospectus’ Jay Jaffe reports (via Cots Contracts) that they’ll be free of a lot of money as of 2010 and almost all contracts by 2011.

[Kemp’s 2011] deal more or less represents the Dodgers’ strongest acknowledgment to date that the world will not end after the coming season, which should come as a relief to anxious fans. According to the data at Cot’s Baseball Contracts (h/t new colleague Jeff Euston), the team has just four players under contract after this year: Kemp, Rafael Furcal ($12 million), Casey Blake ($5.25 million), and Carroll ($1.925 million). The club will still have control over the seven remaining arbitration-eligible players: Billingsley, James Loney, and Hong-Chih Kuo (who will be in their second years), Jonathan Broxton, Andre Ethier, and Russell Martin (third years), and George Sherrill (fourth year).  [Ed. note: Ethier’s agreement came shortly after this was published–like, five minutes.  That sucks.]

Of course this makes Dodger fans nervous–who’s going to play for the team??–but this opens the door to make wiser financial decisions than throwing two- or three-year deals for high per annum dollars at aging superstars.  Rebuilding the farm is considerably more important and cheaper. We’ll stay tuned to see if they spend the dollars in the first round come June.

Colletti is not a good evaluator of talent (and both of last year’s July 31 deadline trades are examples of that), but he’s been remarkable at showing financial dexterity in a not-so-good time.  That he was able to trade Pierre and get some of that contract off the table while also not signing big free agents to hefty contracts and using that money toward his more important assets–his arb. eligible players–is great.  He also found a good value in 2B Jamey Carroll, who is slightly undervalued because of his above-average on-base percentage.

If he can pull off signing either Joel Piniero, Ben Sheets or another high-reward potential starter on the cheap, it’ll be a great off-season for the Dodgers.

Edit: Dylan Hernandez reports the Dodgers have now agreed to contracts with Jonathan Broxton and Russell Martin as well, meaning they’ve avoided arbitration with all of their eligible players.  Well done.

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