Diamond Duels: Jonathan Broxton vs. J.J. Putz
by Eric McClung and Matt Trueblood
on March 7, 2011 @ 14:45:33
Broxton's fantasy baseball player profile
- Broxton is coming off a nightmare season in which he was demoted from the closer role following a loss of command and velocity. Coaches and player alike believe improved control will correct both issues. Meanwhile, the owner of the best sideburns in baseball is developing a split-finger fastball as his style evolves. At 26 years old, the best Broxton has to offer could still lie ahead.
In 39 games before the All-Star break, Broxton featured an impressive 2.11 ERA with a .234 batting average against and was pace for a career year. While posting a blistering 12.91 K/9, he only walked seven batters. Then the wheels came off during Broxton's final 25 games, not long after a 48-pitch disaster June 27. Only six games later, he tossed 44. His second-half ERA exploded to 7.13 with 21 walks and only 18 strikeouts. Opponents exploited him to the tune of .326 BAA and five blown saves.
Brox the vote
- One year after struggling mightily in Queens, J.J. Putz put together an impressive first half on Chicago's South Side with a 1.59 ERA and .160 BAA. But let's not forget Putz also suffered an ugly second-half swoon of his own. Following the break, he compiled a 4.95 ERA and .268 BAA and fought through a knee injury.
- In addition to a long history of elbow issues, the new ninth-inning man in the desert turned 34 in February. Since 2008, he has been on the disabled list four times, at least once per season. Due to his fragile nature, Putz has only averaged 43 1/3 innings pitched over last three seasons.
- The Dodgers bullpen features elite lefty setup man Hong-Chih Kuo, raw but talented up-and-comer Kenley Jansen and veteran reliever Matt Guerrier, who was added during the offseason. Despite Broxton's hiccups, the Dodgers ranked seventh in save percentage among NL bullpens. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks' pen was among the worst of all-time and, while they acquired some promising young arms, did little for a short-term fix. Surrounded by a shaky supporting cast, the brittle Putz will see a large number of save opportunities dry up before he even enters the game.
Closing argument: Injuries and performance issues cause closer turnover all season long. Saves will be around long after draft day. Think big and take the arm with upside, not one bound for another DL stint. Broxton is a relatively young power pitcher on the better team that has remained healthy and can put up nasty ratios when right. In 2010, he was among the highest selected closers. This time around Broxton is shaping up to be a steal. What a difference a year makes.
Putz's fantasy baseball player profile
- Putz has superior command in this matchup, and not by a small margin: He walked 2.50 batters per nine innings pitched in 2010, while Jonathan Broxton issued 4.04 free passes per nine frames. They strike out hitters at roughly the same rate, which puts Putz ahead from a pure skill set perspective right away.
- Putz's position at the back of the Arizona bullpen is unassailable. The team sunk a two-year commitment into him this winter, and they have no one good enough to seriously threaten Putz this season.
Broxton, meanwhile, will be under the microscope from Day 1. Hong-Chih Kuo stole the big man's job at one stretch last season and could do it again if Broxton falters early. Kenley Jensen is arguably an even more clear and present danger. He fanned 119 over 72 innings at three levels last season, including 41 in 27 big-league frames. If Broxton even holds onto the job through the end of the year, he probably will not be back in 2012, so LA might want to test their other relievers again if they fall out of contention.
Don't be a ...
- Both men have limited home runs effectively with similar grounder rates in recent years. In his early years Putz showed more ground-ball aptitude, and he has worked his way back to that after his various injuries. Though he bumped his grounders up in 2009, Broxton struggled to get his nasty stuff consistently by opponents in 2010, so the days of giving up only one home run every 18 innings or so may be over for him. Putz's split-finger fastball is a much more dependable means of keeping the ball on the ground and in the park.
- A track record in the closer's role is a tenuous evidentiary exhibit: Some say it takes a certain kind of guy to close, while others say it couldn't matter less. I say that a stat is a stat, so here is a stat: Broxton is 77-for-109 for his career in save opportunities, while Putz is 106-for-136. In 27 fewer chances, Broxton has blown two more saves.
- Both guys are big. Putz tips the scales at 250 pounds, and Broxton still has half a bill on him. The difference is that Putz is a much better athlete. His delivery is more repeatable: That has been showcased by his better command. He is also less likely to pull up with an oblique strain or a tight hamstring than the massive Broxton. Putz's past arm troubles are less concerning, in my view, than Broxton's generally poor conditioning.
Closing argument: I like to wait on closers, but philosophy should come into play as you make your draft-day decisions. Putz is going, not a great deal later, but a few rounds later than Broxton in many drafts. I'll own Putz in more leagues than Broxton for the same reason I'll own Joel Hanrahan in more leagues than I'll own Carlos Marmol: Because I would rather have a starting pitcher in the 11th round than chase saves, and I think the guys going later (including Putz) can be as good or better in fantasy terms as their more established or high-profile counterparts.
KFFL staff verdict
Fantasy Baseball Diamond Duels
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.
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