Broxton Cocktail

Jonathan Broxton is an elite closer, averaging 12 strikeouts per nine innings with a 2.92 ERA. Asking him to get three outs in a game his team has a 95% chance of winning is a no-brainer. And the overwhelming majority of the time, Broxton will convert the 95% chance into 100%.

Unless it’s against the Phillies.

Broxton has been the victim of some great Phillies memories recently. He added one more to the timeline last night.

The Phillies were down 9-2 going into the bottom of the eighth inning. FanGraphs listed their probability of winning at a whopping 1%. However, the never-say-die Phillies scored four runs on four singles and a double off of Ronald Belisario and Kenley Jansen. Still, their win probability only moved up to 3.6% by the end of the inning with the score 9-6.

Bottom of the ninth, enter Broxton, he of the career 4.91 ERA in 14.2 IP against the Phillies, highest among any team against which he has logged 11 or more innings. Was his lack of success against them running through his mind? Was he recalling:

  • August 24, 2008: The Phillies are behind 2-1 with runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth. Shane Victorino reached on a single and Andy Tracy reached on a walk (Kyle Kendrick pinch-ran for him). When the second out of the inning was recorded, the Phillies had a 14.5% chance to win. Pedro Feliz brought the Phillies up to 61.3% with a game-tying single to right field. Feliz played the role of hero again in the bottom of the eleventh, hitting a walk-off three-run home run off of Jason Johnson.
  • October 13, 2008: Game 4 of the National League Champsionship Series. The Phillies entered the top of the eighth inning behind 5-3. Shane Victorino tied the game with a line drive two-run home run down the right field line off of Cory Wade. Wade recorded the second out of the inning, then allowed a single to Carlos Ruiz before being pulled for Broxton. What happened next will be forever vivid in the memories of Phillies fans: Matt Stairs put one of the most beautiful swings on a Broxton fastball, hitting one of the most beautiful home runs, putting the Phillies up 7-5, the score by which they would win.
  • May 14, 2009: The Phillies are behind 3-1 with two outs in the ninth. Broxton struck out Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth to start the inning, but Raul Ibanez singled and Greg Dobbs walked to bring up Carlos Ruiz. After falling behind 0-2 and fouling off two more tough pitches, Ruiz hit a double to deep right-center, scoring runs two and three to tie the game. The Phillies went from 1.6% to win after Werth’s strikeout to 61.1% after Ruiz’s double. The Phillies, however, ended up losing as Chad Durbin allowed two runs to the Dodgers in the top of the tenth. Ramon Troncoso nailed down the save.
  • October 19, 2009: Game 4 of the NLCS again. The Phillies enter the bottom of the ninth trailing 4-3. Raul Ibanez grounded out for the first out of the inning, bringing up Matt Stairs. In what can only be described as sheer nervousness, Broxton walked Stairs on four pitches, three of which were low and outside. Carlos Ruiz was subsequently hit with a pitch, putting runners on first and second. Greg Dobbs lined out for the second out of the inning, bringing up Jimmy Rollins. And then this happened. Rollins laced a double to right-center, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs for a walk-off victory that put the Phillies up three games to one in the NLCS.

Back to tonight. The Phillies are down 9-6 entering the ninth inning. They have a 5% chance to win.

Broxton hit Polanco to start the ninth inning, then walked Mike Sweeney and Jayson Werth to load the bases with no outs. Ben Francisco hit a ground ball that went through Casey Blake‘s legs, scoring two runs to bring the Phillies within one run. Carlos Ruiz, always the hero, ended the game with a two-run double to left-center. Once again, Broxton walked off the field failing to have nailed down the save against the Phillies.

Here’s a look, in chart form, of Broxton’s failure to hold the Phillies scoreless. (Via FanGraphs)

It would be interesting to find out if the Phillies have information on Broxton that the rest of the league does not. While five games constitutes a very small sample, the odds of the Phillies coming from behind the way they have are astronomically low. There is likely something more to this than simple statistical variance, whether it’s Broxton’s jitters or some juicy information the Phillies have in their scouting reports.

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  1. David

    August 13, 2010 08:24 AM

    I could watch the Matt Stairs homerun until my eyes bleed.

  2. bill

    August 13, 2010 08:30 AM

    Check your posts before they go out –
    “Jonathan Broxton is an elite closer, averaging 12 strikeouts per inning”

    12 K’s per inning huh?

    “The Phillies are down 9-6 entering the ninth inning. They have a 95% chance to win.”

    Pretty amazing that down 3 runs in the 9th, and they still have a 95% chance to win!

  3. Androo

    August 13, 2010 09:14 AM

    It’s not absurd to think that the Phillies have information on Broxton that others do not, but it also bears mentioning that Juan Castro spent time with the Phillies earlier this season, who now plays for the Dodgers. I find it very hard to believe that even though the Phillies didn’t play against LA while Castro was with the team that he would never have come across whatever this pitch tipping or tendency might be and relay it directly to Torre and the Dodgers upon his arrival in LA.

  4. dejesus54

    August 13, 2010 09:41 AM

    Juan Castro is currently an Albuquerque Isotope (AAA)– I doubt he would care unless he were with the Dodgers and the Phils were their opponent.

    Also, Broxton apparently has been brutal since the All Star Break, and may be injured or at least have major mental issues as well as bad luck:

    How many blown saves vs. one opponent would it take not to be random?

  5. TheManKev

    August 13, 2010 10:43 AM

    They showed Castro in the dugout on a few different occasions over the course of the series with the Dodgers this week.

  6. Dominic Pody

    August 13, 2010 10:54 AM

    While I love the thought of the Phils having insider information on Broxton, could last night possibly be used to back up that argument? Nothing in a scouting report caused Broxton’s HBP or his 2 walks, not to mention the Bill Buckner-esque error that made in 9-8.

  7. Bill Baer

    August 13, 2010 10:57 AM

    Well it’s not just last night. The Phillies have pwned him five times over the last three years. Carlos Ruiz also put a good swing on him last night.

  8. Dominic Pody

    August 13, 2010 11:19 AM

    I understand that. But like you said, five game constitutes a small sample; if last night was excluded, and we only had a four game sample, the likelihood would be even lower that the Phillies have some “juicy” scouting. Granted, I’m no statistician, but with a sample size so low isn’t the importance of each input magnified?

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but the game last night looked more like a bad night for Broxton–he obviously couldn’t control his fastball, for instance–than the result of good scouting. As for Ruiz’s hit, it was a terrible hanging slider, not a good pitch that he knew was coming.

    (Once again, I really hope you are correct, I’m just skeptical about last night.)

  9. Brad

    August 13, 2010 11:55 AM

    Another interesting post. I’m probably just thinking this because most of my Broxton sightings have been during Phils-Dodgers games, but (as someone who grew up a Dodgers fan before switching after the Fox-buying/Piazza-trading fiasco) he reminds me of the Dodgers old closer Tom Niedenfuer (sp?). Both have powerful arms, but their fastballs are pretty straight, which seems to let them down in big game situations. Just a thought…

  10. CH Phan

    August 13, 2010 01:15 PM

    I doubt “insider” info would be anything new or different in baseball or any other sport as players change or are traded from one team to another on a routine basis. So what.

    It would be interesting to see if this kind of thing has happened to any other closers before.

    When Broxton walked out there last night you could see on his face that he wasn’t going to be able to handle it. I knew we would win – no doubt at all. He looked to me as though he was all but shaking. I don’t know if it is the team & their attitude, or CBP & the fans, but this guy clearly can’t handle this team in that kind of situation. It’s as though he’s a piece of soft timber going directly into a buzzsaw. He outright lied to Torre when Torre asked him if he ‘trusted his stuff’. He said he did. Look what happened. Maybe Torre had no one else to go with and he just said what Torre wanted to hear. In any case, the results are the same.

  11. Dingers

    August 13, 2010 01:34 PM

    You know, I saw the link, I told myself not to click it, and yet here I am, reliving all of those awful moments.

  12. dejesus54

    August 13, 2010 02:05 PM

    Niedenfuer never had the ridiculous K rates of Broxton (Niedenfuer: 6.5 K/9 career, Broxton: 11.9 K/9) and Broxton also has 70 lbs. on his predecessor (295 vs. 225– even though Niedenfuer is an inch taller, according to BaseballReference), but otherwise works for me, at least in terms of Dodger momentum crushers who were otherwise decent pitchers. I guess Carlos Ruiz is the new Jack Clark?

  13. Tamuel

    August 13, 2010 10:13 PM

    When Broxton came into the game last night, the Phillies chances mysteriously increased to 100%

  14. Brad

    August 14, 2010 12:27 PM

    Ha! I’d have to say that Stairs is the new Jack Clark, given the iconic nature of his homer. Ruiz can be the new Ozzie Smith.

  15. Nate

    August 14, 2010 05:04 PM

    Living in LA as a Phillies phan (and seeing the Stairs home run in person) makes Broxton’s failures that much more priceless.

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