The Cincinnati Reds front office had to be pleased when they saw Aroldis Chapman’s first start of the 2013 exhibition season. The former closer threw two innings, retiring all six batters he faced.
That sample, however, should do little to raise optimism about the club’s decision to put Chapman in starting rotation. Two inning stints are not much different than what he threw last year as the most dominant closer in baseball.
Chapman’s effectiveness is not the concern in Cincinnati; it is his replacement in the closer role, Jonathan Broxton.
“Broxton has been known to amp up the anxiousness of many managers,” wrote Stan Menal of Sportingnews.com, a statement that has to worry the loved ones of Dusty Baker. The Reds’ manager had to miss the last few games last season due to a stay in the hospital for health concerns.
Those concerns might grow more alarming now that his new closer brings alarmingly worse stats to the mound than did his flame-throwing predecessor.
Broxton has a career 3.10 earned run average, nearly two runs higher than Chapman’s 1.51 of last year. Broxton’s save conversion rate is 74%, but Chapman’s was 88% last year.Opponents hit .226 off of Broxton, nearly 100 points higher than the .141 they hit against Chapman.
Broxton’s ineffectiveness led Dodgers’ manager Joe Torre to remove him as closer just two years ago.
“Broxton had blown three of his last five save chances, including blowing a four run lead against the Philadelphia Phillies,” wrote Yahoo contributor Ryan Christopher Devault after Torre’s decision. “Broxton’s ERA in the second half of the season was sitting at 10.13 in just eight innings, and he might have lost something on the mound.”
Since that demotion, Broxton had not been a regular closer for either of the teams he has joined. Not even Kansas City, which has not reached the postseason in over two decades, did not entrust Broxton to close out their games. His primary role with the Royals last year was as a set up man, the same role he filled for the Reds after they acquired him at the trade deadline.
For some reason now, Cincinnati’s front office has decided that he can be a consistent closer. Let us hope they are correct, or a team that lost just 65 games last year could lose a lot more this year, including its manager.
Doug Poe once delivered newspapers to Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and Tony Perez, three customers who have made him a lifelong fan of the Reds.