In the aftermath of last night’s disaster, I received a good question from a fan on Twitter: When, he wanted to know, would it be okay to blame Jonathan Broxton for his failures? He’s referring to the fact that I (among others) put a lot of the blame on Joe Torre for the Yankee debacle, and generally defend Broxton otherwise.
My answer is: sure, you can blame him for yesterday’s game right now. I mean, it’s unfair to do that without also blaming Travis Schlichting and Justin Miller for failing to get through the 8th, Matt Kemp for hesitating with the ball when he could have nailed the runner at second for the game-ending out before the tying run scored, Jamey Carroll for leaving six men on base, and the entire Dodger offense for barely touching the man who may be the worst starting pitcher in baseball right now, Jeff Suppan. On top of all that, the fact that the Dodgers lost the first three games of the series – losses which Broxton had nothing to do with – thus making this game seem like a bigger deal than it really was, didn’t help the case either.
Those sins don’t absolve Broxton, of course. They shouldn’t be ignored, either.
Still, it was Broxton who let six men reach base without a single strikeout, so yes: last night’s on him. It was dreadfully painful to watch, all the more so because I knew what kind of silliness we’d be reading about today (as Chad at MOKM points out, it’s worse than you think.)
All I ask is to be fair about this. Broxton didn’t blow the game last night because of some garbage you’ll hear about not seeing the killer instinct when you look into his eyes, as though any one of us has a real personal relationship with him. That’s ridiculous, and it’s unfair of anyone to even speculate what goes on inside his head, because you just don’t know.
No, Broxton lost last night because he dicked around against rookie Jon Jay, who has all of 75 career at-bats. He tried to nibble rather than challenging him, and issued him a free pass. He lost because he threw 27 pitches in the 9th inning, and all but three were fastballs. I don’t care how hard you throw; unless your fastball has some movement on it, which Broxton’s largely doesn’t, guys are going to be able to get around on it if they know it’s coming. (This, by the way, is exactly the same thing I said when I was analyzing last year’s botched NLCS game against the Phillies in the Maple Street Annual.) He threw, according to MLB.com, 17 fastballs in a row to Brendan Ryan, Felipe Lopez, Jay, and Allen Craig.
That’s not lack of intestinal fortitude; that’s just being stupid, bull-headed or both. Broxton has a decent slider. He just needs to mix it in more, because as hard as it may be to hit 99 MPH heat when you know it’s coming, it’s downright impossible when you have the worry of a knee-buckling breaking pitch in the back of your mind.
So yeah, be mad at Broxton for last night’s game. Be frustrated. I know I am. Just think with your head before you call for ludicrous trade ideas - as though he’s not having the best season of his career (lowest FIP among all MLB relievers, career-low BB/9, career-low HR/9, second-highest career K/9, despite a career-high BABIP), as though no other closer in the big leagues ever blows a save, and as though the Dodgers really have anyone anywhere near his caliber to replace him.
We can be mad, but we can also be reasonable. I hope.