When the Brewers first acquired Jonathan Broxton at the waiver trade deadline, to be perfectly honest, I didn't really care that much. I though it was an appropriate move for the cost to acquire. Namely 2 non-prospects. At first glance I thought he was a high risk acquisition that could easily tank. With a $9 million price tag in 2015 and at least another $2 million in 2016, I actually got a little angry. But once the season ended, and I took a closer look, I found some reasons to feel hopeful.
One might look at his recent performance and compare it to his past performance and walk away unimpressed. He doesn't have the velocity he once possessed nor has he been striking out batters at such a prodigious rate. That's the wrong way of looking at it though. We should only be concerned with who he is now and what he is capable of now.
I think there are two things that tell us he might still be a good reliever in 2015. Looking at his career numbers, he's only had 2 seasons which we could truly call bad. Those would be his 2011 and 2013 years. One thing above all else connects those two seasons: Health.
In 2011 Jonathan Broxton missed almost the entire season due to an elbow injury. He eventually had some surgery to clean up some bone spurs in his elbow. In 2013 he again missed a significant amount of time due to a torn flexor tendon in his elbow that required surgery.
In seasons when Broxton was generally healthy he was very effective. In fact only twice in those seasons did he have an ERA above 3.00 (3.13 ERA in 2008, 4.04 ERA in 2010). While he did miss a handful of games at the start of 2014, he was otherwise healthy the entire season. His ERA in 2014 was 2.30. While it's fair to call him a high risk player, at the moment there is no reason to believe that Jonathan Broxton won't be healthy again in 2015.
It's at this time an individual may feel compelled to note Jonathan Broxton experienced a career low average fastball velocity in 2014. Such an individual would indeed be correct. However this individual will have missed an important point. While Broxton's season long average fastball velocity was his lowest ever, it was rising from June onwards.
It might be helpful to take a wider view of his average velocity to see just how much his velocity jumped in the second half of the season.
Jonathan Broxton never regained the peak velocity (97-98 mph) he had way back in 2009, but towards the end of 2014 his velocity was right around what he had been averaging (94-95 mph) from 2010 through 2013. That's encouraging.
He was recovering from injury at the start of 2014 and as the season went on his velocity really started coming back. I think it's too soon to conclude that his velocity has returned for good. However at the least, there is now a reason to believe his velocity (94-95 mph) will be there if he's healthy in 2015.
As Carson Cistulli notes here, Broxton has always been "a player for whom there's been a strong correlation between arm speed and effectiveness." There is reason to believe his velocity will be there so long as he is healthy. There is also reason to believe he will be healthy in 2015. Therefore, there is reason to believe he will be an effective reliever in 2015.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs
Velocity charts courtesy of Brooks Baseball