Last night, the Dodgers entered the eighth inning with a two-run lead. This was before newfound reliever, Vicente Padilla entered the ballgame and struggled to hold the Marlins down. He would allow a run that would bring the game to within a run. Enter the ninth inning. Entering the game was closer Jonathan Broxton. Broxton has not had it easy over the last year. Many fans have begun to lose confidence in the closer. The events from Monday night would not help him. But hear this opinion: This one was not his fault. That is not to say that it is not his fault at all. Broxton was still Broxton.
The key batter to Broxton’s appearance was Emilio Bonifacio, who Broxton was within a strike of retiring to pick up the win for the Dodgers and his sixth save of the season. Bonifacio would wind up walking. The next batter, Hanley Ramirez, singled. That advanced Bonifacio to third. Remember that this is with two outs. That is important because the next batter, Scott Cousins, would ground to Jamey Carroll at short for what would presumably be the final out for the game. However, the routine grounder sailed past Carroll. Bonifacio scored. Chris Coghlan was intentionally walked. Omar Infante would then pull a pitch to left. Jerry Sands should have gotten to the ball, but made a rookie mistake and misplayed it. The ball sailed over his head and the winning run scored.
Had Broxton retired Bonifacio, this article might not exist today. It might be given a few days before coming to reality. Nevertheless, what’s done is done and a change has to be made to try and right the ship early in the season, rather than it being too late.
2011: 11 GP, 1-1, 5 SV (1 BSV), 10 1/3 IP, 7 R (5 ER), 12 H, 7 BB, 8 K. 1.84 WHIP. 4.35 ERA.
Career: 383 GP, 25-19, 82 SV, (33 BSV), 389 2/3 IP, 156 R (136 ER), 317 H, 161 BB, 501 K. 1.23 WHIP. 3.14 ERA
Jonathan Broxton has held the closer role for three and a half seasons. He took the role from Takashi Saito after Saito went down with an injury. Before taking over, Broxton was one of baseball’s best setup pitchers. His strikeout/walk ratio was almost 4/1. He posted an ERA of 2.85 and was heralded as one of baseball’s brightest up and coming stars. Broxton shortly took over and excelled.
However, come last season, Broxton began to struggle. He lost a lot on his fastball that would regularly hit the high-90s to low-100s. Instead, he was hitting 92-93 and topping out at 95. His pitches became hittable and in a sense predictable. He lost his job to Hong-Chih Kuo, who struggled too, but not as much. The change in jobs did not help Broxton regain his form and the season would eventually come to a close.
Enter Don Mattingly and the new coaching regime. Mattingly decided to give Broxton a newfound sense of trust and re-instated him as the Dodger closer. That decision has to be hard to justify as Broxton has allowed nearly two runners per appearance. With that, we assume that runners are on first and second. Of course, that is only the best case scenario. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is horrible at 8/7. That is light-years away from the near 4/1 ratio that he once posted.
At best, Broxton can regain his 100-MPH fastball and dominate the competition again, even with a few mistakes. At worst, Broxton has lost his gun and will slowly disappear.
2011: 10 GP, 0-0, 0 SV, 1 Hld, 8 1/3 IP, 2 R (1 ER), 5 H, 5 BB, 6 K. 1.20 WHIP. 1.08 ERA.
Career: 341 GP, 15-22, 70 SV (22 BSV), 339 2/3 IP, 185 R (158 ER), 339 H, 182 BB, 286 K. 1.53 WHIP. 4.19 ERA.
Many Dodger fans are still getting to know Mike MacDougal. MacDougal, 34, has journeyed to the Dodgers, who are his fifth team. After posting a horrific ERA of 7.23 with the Cardinals last season, MacDougal’s career was thought to be finished. However, he was offered an invite to Spring Training to try and make it with the Dodgers. After a terrific spring, MacDougal won his spot.
Through ten games, MacDougal has been a bright spot for the bullpen. He has provided 8 1/3 serviceable innings and has kept Ronald Belisario’s spot warm should he ever make it back to the United States. But is he closer material? Looking closer at MacDougal’s numbers, you will see that he, like Broxton has struck out just a batter more than he has walked. The concern is his past. He was a decent closer for the Royals before losing his job to Joakim Soria, but was never lights out. How much better of a closer could he be than Broxton?
2011: 2 GP, 0-0, 0 SV, 2 Hld, 2 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K. 1.50 WHIP. 4.50 ERA.
Career: 323 GP, 104-90, 2 SV, 2 Hld, 1,514 2/3 IP, 794 R (726 ER), 1,548 H, 532 BB, 1,062 K. 1.37 WHIP. 4.31 ERA.
The Dodgers broke an interesting report back in November. Rather than remind everybody about this embarrassing occasion, I’ll just say that Vicente Padilla was heading to the disabled list. This looked like the end of Padilla with the Dodgers as the club would move on to sign Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Garland. However, the club shocked many by signing Padilla stating that he would help shore up the bullpen.
Much is still being learned about Padilla. He made his return to the club just a few days ago. Yesterday, he allowed a run but still was able to collect his second career hold. Both holds came this season. I could see Padilla escalate into a Trevor Hoffman-type of closer. He may not be overpowering, but he can definitely locate a pitch. The “soap bubble” eephus pitch that Vin Scully has coined for him can become a household pitch for seasons to come. Padilla’s numbers as a starter are good, but one must remember that a brand new slate must be given to Padilla as a reliever.
Matt Guerrier – Guerrier was the setup man with the Twins for four years. He never got his shot to close with names like Joe Nathan and Jesse Crain. He posts a very impressive WHIP of 1.24 over the course of his career. He seems to be adjusting well to the National League. However, last year, he did blow 7 saves. He doesn’t strike many batters out either. He is a great stopper, nonetheless.
Kenley Jansen – Last season, it appeared that the Dodgers had discovered a diamond in the rough. Catcher-turned-pitcher, Kenley Jansen is a giant, not only in stature, but on the mound as an opposing pitcher. He looked as if he might supplant Broxton by posting an ERA of 0.67 last season in 25 games. However, the league seems to have caught up to him this season. His ERA has ballooned to 9.58 and his WHIP from 1.00 to 1.84.
Jon’s Take: The club is fortunate to have the options that it does. I liked that they took a chance on MacDougal, who brought in experience in the closer’s role. I thought that Guerrier would complement the bullpen well in late inning situation. However, I thought that Broxton would regain his form. While the last blown save might not entirely be his fault, it might be the only blown save that can be tagged to somebody else. The velocity is not looking like it will return. His pitches aren’t sinking or breaking.
That said, the pitcher that is best suited for the role is Vicente Padilla. Padilla can use his finesse pitches to his advantage. At 33, Padilla isn’t exactly the youngest pitcher, but still has many more years left in him if used appropriately. He has expressed much interest in remaining a Dodger. He is noticeably happier in Los Angeles than he was in Texas.
Rather than await sheer doom, I think that the club needs to experiment with Padilla as the closer. At worst, you end up with what Broxton has produced. Padilla’s walk rate will drop below that of Broxton.