Last season, the Cincinnati Reds had a bullpen that ranked in the top-10 in the Major Leagues in ERA and strikeouts while leading the league in batting average against. The Reds finished with a record of 90-72 and earned a spot in the National League Wild Card Game. This season, while throwing the least amount of innings in the Majors, the Reds’ bullpen is 24th in batting average against, 28th in ERA, and dead last in strikeouts. The Reds are currently three games under .500 and are already six games behind the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers.
In last night’s 15 inning showdown with the Washington Nationals that ended in a 4-3 win, the Reds’ bullpen threw 8.1 innings, giving up just two runs (one in the 9th to blow the save and allow the Nats to tie the game and one in the 15th after they had scored two in the top half of the inning), six hits, and two walks. One reliever who contributed to the bullpen’s effective stat-line last night was Jonathan Broxton, who pitched a scoreless 8th inning, allowing one hit and needing just 13 pitches. He earned his first hold of the year after earning 5 saves while serving as the closer for the first quarter of the season.
With the return of Aroldis Chapman from his frightening head injury, Jonathan Broxton is sure to float back into obscurity. Nevertheless, while the Reds’ bullpen has been nothing short of disastrous this year, Broxton’s performance has been reassuring throughout the turmoil. Appearing in 11 games so far this year (all one inning affairs), Broxton has 10 scoreless appearances to his name and has allowed just one run all season, good for a 0.82 ERA. Of all National League relievers with at least 10 IP, Broxton has the sixth-lowest earned run average.
While Broxton isn’t nearly the strikeout pitcher he once was with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he still manages to get batters out. Broxton owns a 0.91 WHIP and batters are hitting just .135 against him. Although he’s a right-handed pitcher, lefties are just 1 for 11 against Broxton this year. Even more impressive is his performance with runners on base. Players are just 2 for 14 with a base occupied and 0 for 10 when hitting against Broxton with a runner in scoring position.
Broxton has been nothing short of spectacular for a pretty average Cincinnati Reds team. While the roster hasn’t seen much turnover from last season, the Reds have played like a much worse team. One reason for this has been the work of the bullpen as whole. If the Reds wish to get back to the playoffs this season, they will need Jonathan Broxton to keep pitching like the All-Star he looks like and the rest of the bullpen to follow in his footsteps.