Once upon a time the Dodgers had a big man in the bullpen who was one of the most dominating relief pitchers of our generation. The big man blew away batters, entered games to the Iron Man soundtrack, and broke Dodger fans hearts. If you thought Todd Coffey was a large man, you might want to think again. (Don’t get me wrong, Coffey is a large man too) Now you do know who I am talking about right Dodger fans? He is the man, the myth, the legend….JB-Jonathon Broxton.
To blow a big lead, a synonym of to choke. Typically used in the context of sports or video games. Often preceded by adjectives such as epic, huge, total, or major and punctuated by a well-timed bro or dude.
The big man was originally drafted by the Dodgers in the 2nd round of the 2002 amateur draft. At one point, Broxton was one of the longest tenured Dodgers. The 27-year old right hander ascended through the minor league system quite quickly, which is not surprising, considering how hard the big man could throw. Broxton started out playing for Great Falls of the Pioneer League. He only pitched in 11 games, but posted an ERA of 2.76 and whiffed 33 batters in 29 innings and started six games. Yes, some people may not know this, but Broxton was a starting pitcher back in those days. Scary isn’t it?
By 2004, Broxton was already pitching for the Vero Beach Dodgers and mowing down batters at record paces. He was 11-6 posting a 3.23 ERA in 23 games as a starter. He whiffed 144 batters in 128 innings, which equaled an eye-popping 10.1 strikeout per nine rate. Broxton continued to advance through the Dodger’s farm system fast. In 2005, he was with Jacksonville of the Southern League, the Dodger’s double-A team at the time. Broxton was moved into the bullpen and excelled. That season while with Jacksonville, he whiffed 107 batters in 96 innings while lowering his walk rate each year. Perhaps the most impressive was his ability to keep the ball in the park. Broxton only allowed 12 home runs during his entire minor league career. That was quite a remarkable feet for the big man.
After pitching in 11 games for Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League, Broxton was ready to be called up to the big club. Broxton made his major league debut with the Dodgers on July 29, 2005 against the Cardinals. He pitched one inning allowing one run and whiffing two batters. His first strikeout was Albert Pujols.
Broxton pitched in 14 games out of the Dodger bullpen in 2005, and he struck out 22 batters in only 13.2 innings of work. Broxton actually began the 2006 season in the minor leagues, but was called back up to the Dodgers on May 1st of 2006 after Lance Carter was designated for assignment. Under manager Grady Little, Broxton became the Dodger’s set-up man and backup closer to Takashi Saito. That year Broxton appeared in 68 games that season, posting a 2.59 ERA, whiffing 97 batters in 76.1 innings pitched, while also posting a 11.4 strikeout per nine rate, and holding all batters to a minuscule .159 average with runners in scoring position. The following year Broxton pitched in 83 games for the Dodgers in 2007. His ERA was 2.85, and he struck out 99 batters in 82 innings pitched. That is a 10.9 K/9 rate. By this time he had earned the Dodgers’ trust. His 2007 season was one of the best. His 83 games were the third most in National League history and the fourth most in Dodger history ever. His 99 whiffs ranked him second among all NL relievers, and his 32 holds ranked him fifth in major League Baseball.
What was most impressive was his streak of not allowing a home run from July 23, 2006, to August 21, 2007. That’s 96.2 consecutive innings of not allowing a home run, which is the longest streak in Los Angeles Dodgers history.
On July 19, 2008, Takashi Saito went down with injury, and Broxton was moved into the closers role. That season he saved 14 games, while posting an ERA of 3.13 in 70 games. His strikeout rate was 11.5. However during the Dodgers playoff run, he struggled. In game four of the NLCS, he allowed a go-ahead two-run home run to Phillies pinch-hitter Matt Stairs. We all remember that home run, which turned the tide against us during that series. Very hard to forget such a memorable loss.
In 2009, Broxton was given the closer role full time, and he flourished. He pitched in 73 games that season posting a 2.61 ERA saving 36 games, recording 114 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched. His strikeout rate was an amazing 13.5, which earned him his first NL all-star selection. However by the end of the 2009 season, the wear and tear began to show on his arm, as he began to fall victim to the meltdown.
Known by most Dodger fans as the father of the modern meltdown, Broxton succumbed to the most agonizing meltdown of all. With the Dodgers just 1 out away from tying the 2009 NLCS at two games a piece with the Phillies, Broxton allowed a walk to Matt Stairs, hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch, and then allowed a walk-off two out-two run hit to Jimmy Rollins. It was a soul crushing, heartbreaking loss for Broxton and for Dodger fans.
The following year we all hoped for better times for Broxton and the Dodgers. However that was not to be. At first Broxton was good. He was selected to the all-star game in 2010. Broxton was nearly un-hittable during the first half of the 2010 season. He had a 2.10 ERA, 55 whiffs, only 7 walks, and 19 saves, while saving the all-star game for the National League. However in June Broxton ran into trouble in the infamous Yankee game debacle at Dodger Stadium. Entering the 9th inning of that game with a four run lead. This was Broxton’s fourth game in five days, and the day he didn’t pitch he had been warming up in the bullpen. Broxton fell victim to Joe Torre’s infamous bullpen mismanagement. Since Torre had no confidence in anyone else, Broxton was left out to rot, even though it was clear he was exhausted. Broxton allowed four runs, and made 48, yes 48 pitches that night, during that inter-league game against the Yankees. The Dodgers would go on to lose that game, and it marked the beginning of the end for Broxton’s arm.
Broxton’s declining strikeout and walk rates2008-11.5 3.5 2009-13.5 3.4 2010-10.5 4.0 2011-7.0 6.4
Below is a list of some of Broxton’s meltdown games, from June 27th 2010-May 3rd 2011. I am not including all of them only some of them. The more memorable ones are listed below.
1. June 27th vs. Yankees 1 IP 4ER 2BB 1K 48 pitches-BS 2. July 18th @ St. Louis 1.1 IP 2ER 2BB 0K 44 pitches-BS 3. July 31st @ San Francisco .1 IP 1ER 0BB 0K 8 pitches-BS 4. August 12 @ Philadelphia 0 IP 3 ER 3 BB 0K 22 pitches-BS *(Did not retire one batter) 5. August 22nd @ Cincinnati .2 IP 2 ER 1 BB 1 K 29 pitches 6. September 4th vs. San Francisco 1 IP 2 ER 0 BB 2K 22 pitches-BS 7. Septemeber 26th @ Arizona 1 IP 1 ER 0 BB 0 K 8 pitches –BS 8. April 25th, 2011 @ Florida .2 IP 2 ER 2 BB 1 K 27 pitches-BS 9. May 3rd 2011 vs. Chicago .1 IP 2 ER 2 BB 11 pitches-L
It was very sad to see a once dominant pitcher’s arm deteriorate as fast as his did. For the rest of the 2010 season Broxton did not complain of injury, but we suspected that he could be hurt. Some Dodger fans just felt that he couldn’t win the big game. Entering into the 2011 season, Stacie and I hoped for fairness, but we knew from the past meltdowns and deteriorations, history was not on his side. After his first appearance on opening day where he allowed a home run to the very first hitter he faced, we knew his arm had been blown to smithereens….thanks to this man…..
After all was said and done, Broxton finished the 2010 season with a 4.04 ERA, and his walk rate rose to 4.0, and his strikeout rate decreased. It decreased even more in 2011, which is why we knew something was wrong. Broxton having a whiff rate of 7.0 is not the norm for him. On May 4th of 2011 Broxton finally complained of pain in his pitching elbow. He was placed on the disabled list, and after making two rehab stints in Albuquerque in June, he felt pain again and was shutdown for the year. Broxton tried to pitch off a mound in September, but was unable to do so without pain. During the off-season he had cleanup surgery on his elbow to remove bone spurs.
On November 29, 2011, Jonathon Broxton’s Dodger career came to an end when he was signed by the Kansas City Royals to a one-year four million dollar contract.
Jonathon Broxton is 27-years old from Augusta, Georgia. He is 6’4 and 295 pounds. One of the fixates of the Dodger bullpen for years, Broxton was known to enter games to the Iron Man soundtrack. Nancy Bea Hefley would often use the Iron Man chainsaw sound over the P.A. system every time he would record a strikeout. Most Dodger fans have conflicted feelings about Broxton. It is complicated. While we loved him as one of the better relievers the Dodgers have had for years, none of us could ever forgive him for blowing game 4 of the 2009 NLCS.
Broxton had a dominating fastball. He would throw 99-100 every game. He also had a knee-buckling slider which he used to compliment his fastball. We had long since feared that the damage inflicted upon Broxton’s arm by Joe Torre’s poor bullpen management could be un-repairable. We hope that is not true. Apparently the Royals will be using Broxton as a set-up man to Joaquin Soria. Can Broxton finally put the meltdown behind him? Can Jonathon Broxton revive his career? We will find out the answer soon enough. Good luck Big Man.