Stats & Info: aaron crow

Broxton could be right at home in KC 'pen

November, 30, 2011
As the saying goes, a team can never have enough pitching. Specific to the Kansas City Royals, it’s relief pitching. The team came to an agreement with former Los Angeles Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton on a 1-year, $4 million deal earlier this week. No team in baseball has the collection of power arms in the bullpen that the Royals have assembled and if Broxton can return to the form that made him arguably the best reliever in the game, the team could be looking at its best bullpen in 20 years.

In 2009, Broxton established himself as quite possibly the best reliever in the National League. He posted a 2.61 ERA that actually belied how effective he was, as his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) mark was 1.97, the best in the National League among relievers with at least 50 innings pitched. His 2.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) also ranked 1st among relievers. From 2006 to 2009, working both as a middle reliever and closer, Broxton compiled 398 strikeouts in 303 1/3 innings pitched, culminating in 114 strikeouts in 76 innings in 2009.

His performance has rapidly deteriorated since that point, however. Everything about Broxton’s performance has been headed in the wrong direction – his strikeout rate has dropped from 30.1 percent to 23.2 to 18.2 from 2009 to 2011, while his walk rate has jumped from 14.0 percent to 18.2 over the same span. The rate at which he was surrendering line drives also spiked, going from 16.1 percent in 2009 to more than double that in 2011 – 32.6. In fact, among pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched, that line drive rate was the 3rd-worst in baseball.

Clearly, the Royals are buying low on Broxton in hopes he’ll return to his dominant form of 2009. Part of what made Broxton so effective was his average fastball velocity, which sat at 97.6 in 2009 before dropping to 95.3 and 94.0 the last two seasons. If he can regain his previous form, he’ll fit right in with a Royals bullpen that featured some of the hardest-throwing arms in the big leagues. Among AL relievers who threw at least 200 pitches in 2011, the Royals had 4 of the top 18 according to average fastball velocity – Jeremy Jeffress (3rd, 96.8), Blake Wood (8th, 95.5), Aaron Crow (17th, 94.9) and Greg Holland (18th, 94.9).

That group does not even include established closer Joakim Soria or diminutive lefty Tim Collins, who ranked 5th among AL left-handed relivers in average fastball velocity in 2011 at 92.3. A vast majority of these arms have been acquired under the regime of GM Dayton Moore – Holland in the 2007 draft, Crow in the 2009 draft, Jeffress in the Zack Greinke trade with the Milwaukee Brewers and Collins in a 2010 trade with the Atlanta Braves.

It is this collection of high-upside, hard-throwing bullpen arms that helped the Royals to post its best relief season – by ERA – in the Wild Card era. The team’s 3.74 bullpen ERA was its best since 1992 and only the 5th time since 1990 that it’s been under 4.00. While Broxton may never return to his previously dominant form, it’s yet another example of the Royals front office adding a low-cost, high-upside, high-velocity reliever a move that, if it works, could lead the Royals to their first consecutive seasons with bullpen ERAs below 4.00 since they did so three consecutive seasons from 1988-90 and could lead Broxton to a significantly larger payday after 2012.
There were both highs and lows for various pitchers on Monday. We give you “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”:

Chris Carpenter
Chris Carpenter won his third straight start, pitching 8 scoreless innings in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 1-0 win against the Cincinnati Reds. Carpenter has allowed just two runs in his past three starts, good for a 0.75 ERA in that span. The scoreless outing was just Carpenter’s second this season. He went 7 innings without allowing a run on April 17 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Twins pitcher Brian Duensing threw a six-hit shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays in Minnesota’s 7-0 win. The shutout was the second of Duensing’s career, with the other coming on Aug. 14, 2010. It was the fifth shutout by the Twins pitching staff since June 1, the second-most in MLB in that span (Philadelphia Phillies, six).

John Lackey
Red Sox pitcher John Lackey continued to struggle this season, allowing seven earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings in Boston’s 9-7 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. It was Lackey’s fourth start this season allowing seven earned runs or more, which tied him with Cleveland Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona for the most such starts this season. Lackey’s home ERA now sits at 9.17.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Chris Jakubauskas had a game to forget, allowing six runs in 2 innings in a 13-4 loss to the Texas Rangers. His six runs allowed were a season high, and his most since also allowing six runs on July 25, 2009 against the Indians.

Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol’s wild pitch in the 10th inning allowed Jayson Werth to score from third in the Cubs' 5-4, extra-inning loss to the Washington Nationals. It’s the first time the Cubs have lost on a wild pitch since May 12, 1999, when Rod Beck threw a game-ending wild pitch in a loss to the Dodgers.

Aaron Crow
Unlike their neighbors to the north, the Chicago White Sox were the beneficiaries of a late-game gaffe. Kansas City Royals reliever Aaron Crow balked home the game-winning run in the 9th inning, allowing White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski to score from third in the White Sox 5-4 victory. The balk was the first of the newly-named All-Star’s career.

The Royals are the second team this year to lose by balking home the game-winning run (New York Mets, June 16). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time since 2000 where there were at least two walk-off balks in a season. That year, the Texas Rangers (Jeff Zimmerman, April 28) and Atlanta Braves (John Rocker, May 8) lost via game-ending balk to the Orioles and Florida Marlins, respectively.
An A-to-W look at some notable 2011 American League All-Stars. You can view the entire AL All-Star roster here:

Alex Avila, Tigers: First Tigers catcher elected to start the All-Star Game since Ivan Rodriguez in 2007. He ended Joe Mauer’s three-year run of election wins.

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: Will be first Blue Jay elected to start an All-Star Game since Carlos Delgado in 2003.

Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: First Indians shortstop selected to the All-Star Game since Omar Vizquel in 2002.

Robinson Cano, Yankees: Elected to start for second straight season. He’s the first Yankees second baseman elected to start in consecutive seasons since Alfonso Soriano (2002-03).

Aaron Crow, Royals: Second All-Star born in Topeka, Kansas. The other was Ross Grimsley of the 1978 Expos. It’s the sixth year in a row that a Royals pitcher has made the All-Star team.

Adrian Gonzalez
Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: Fourth time a Red Sox first baseman has been elected to start at first base in the past six years, joining David Ortiz (2006, 2007) and Kevin Youkilis (2008). He is the first Red Sox player to be elected a starter in his first season with the club since Mark Loretta at second base in 2006. It’s the seventh straight season that the Red Sox have had at least four All-Stars.

Gio Gonzalez, Athletics: First Athletics left-handed pitcher to make the All-Star team since Barry Zito in 2006. ESPN’s Mark Mulder was the last before that, in 2004.

Curtis Granderson, Yankees: First Yankees outfielder elected to start since Hideki Matsui in 2003.

Felix Hernandez, Mariners: Mariners have two All-Star pitchers (Hernandez and Brandon League) for the first time since 2003 (Jamie Moyer, Shigetoshi Hasegawa).

Derek Jeter, Yankees: Elected to start at shortstop for sixth straight season, seventh time in past eight seasons.

Chris Perez, Indians: First Indians “closer” to be selected to All-Star Game since Bob Wickman in 2005. Indians have two selections for first time since 2008 (Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee).

David Price
David Price, Rays: He and James Shields mark the first time the Rays have had two starting pitchers selected to the All-Star team. David Price is the fourth Rays player to make more than one All-Star Team: Carl Crawford (4), Evan Longoria (3), Scott Kazmir (2), Price (2).

Mariano Rivera, Yankees: Selected to 12th All-Star team, moving him into a tie for second-most All-Star selections with Tom Seaver.

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: Ends run of back-to-back election wins at third base by Evan Longoria. Elected for first time since 2008; 12th election ties Ivan Rodriguez for most elections by an active player.

Jered Weaver, Angels: First Angels starting pitcher selected to back-to-back All-Star teams since Chuck Finley (1995-96).

Matt Wieters, Orioles: First Orioles catcher selected to All-Star team since Mickey Tettleton in 1989.