Brandon League Strikes Again. Now What?

league_sad_2013-05-31Brandon League is an absolute mess. I know this. You know this. Don Mattingly, despite his refusal to publicly throw his closer under the bus, assuredly knows this as well.

We still don’t know why — and trust me, there is a “why” somewhere, because even those most opposed to League’s free-agent deal did not predict this — but at this point, it barely matters. When the game is on the line, League can no longer be absolutely anywhere near it.

Now, I’ve worded that very specifically to say “when the game is on the line” and not “in the ninth inning”, because I think I’ve been very clear in the past that the closer role is highly overrated and that games are just as often won or lost before the ninth. To remove Kenley Jansen from the often more-important eighth inning just to let League or someone else blow the game before it ever gets to Jansen in the ninth does feel like a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Interestingly enough, although I awoke to a barrage of anti-Mattingly complaints, the Dodger manager was showing some advanced thinking along those lines:

“Tonight the numbers said to go with Brandon,” he said. “Does that mean keep the guy? I don’t know. It’s hard to make that decision 12 minutes after the game.”

But he defended his decision to use Kenley Jansen in the eighth inning against Bloomquist, Goldschmidt and Cody Ross (Jansen retired all three) and use League for the bottom of the order. He pointed to the statistical matchups and said if the batting orders had come up the other way, he would have used League in the eighth and Jansen in the ninth.

“If you want to play sabermetrics, those were the best matchups,” he said. “The guys Kenley got are the guys he gets out better than Brandon. The matchups should have been exactly the way it was. But if it doesn’t work, it’s a bad decision. We talked before the game, the eighth and ninth [innings] were up in the air depending who comes up.

The emphasis there is mine, and that’s actually phenomenal. While it clearly didn’t work out, the process was sound. Jansen should be facing the 2-3-4 hitters, regardless of what number inning it is. All too often we see horrible process that ends in a successful result for a completely unrelated reason, but the process is hailed anyway; here, even though it didn’t work out, I love the thinking behind it.

Well, most of the thinking, that is. Just because Jansen is facing the better hitters in the eighth doesn’t automatically mean that it absolutely has to then be League in the ninth, and it really shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, the options are limited there. Ronald Belisario was unavailable last night and has been nearly as erratic as League this year. No one wants Matt Guerrier in a more important role. Peter Moylan is a non-roster ROOGY. J.P. Howell, maybe, but part of his value comes from being able to go multiple innings. There’s not much help in the minors, either, not with Javy Guerra & Shawn Tolleson injured and Steve Ames, Jose Dominguez, Josh Wall, & Chris Withrow all prospects of varying interest who aren’t suddenly big league closers.

So you’re left with Paco Rodriguez, and I honestly wouldn’t have minded if Mattingly had lifted League to bring in the southpaw against lefties Gerardo Parra, Jason Kubel, & Didi Gregorius. We’ve heard rumblings previously this season about potentially putting Rodriguez in higher-leverage situations, and I imagine we might hear them again soon. I’m fine with that if so; that said, Rodriguez had already thrown in four of the last seven days, and so we don’t know what his status was for last night. But he’s shown he isn’t clearly a LOOGY, and he needs to be treated as more of a valuable weapon for now.

Really, that’s the problem. The bullpen was supposed to be a strength, and it’s not, and there’s only so much you can do about that. (Just wait for “Joc Pederson & Zach Lee for Mike Adams & Michael Young,” coming soon to a stadium near you.) So for now, all Mattingly can do is make do with what he has. He’s not going to throw League under the bus, ever, nor should he; but Mattingly can restrict him to the middle innings until such time as he manages to sort out whatever is wrong here. That day may not come, and it may lead to a lot of heartburn when Guerrier is suddenly in important situations. But even if we don’t know what the right answer is, we do know this: it isn’t Brandon League.

955 comments
Purple Drank
Purple Drank

lol why is it that Andrew McCutchen only has 5 more HRs than Matt Kemp yet nobody is on his ass

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

McCutchen is so gooder at bersballs

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

This cole kid looked pretty damned good in the 2nd hitting 96 with the heater and spotting it nicely

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

i was going to go over to Lasorda's Lair to see if i could become a moderator

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

Pitts burghs prize rookie pitcher Cole just knocked in 2 runs

nudibranch
nudibranch

Yimi Garcia's K/BB of 6.83 is the highest in the Southern League among pitchers with at least 30 IP.  Personally, I would've given him a shot over Chris Withrow, who struggles with his walk rate.

WBBsAs (In Dog We Trust. Un Planeta Sin Gatos)
WBBsAs (In Dog We Trust. Un Planeta Sin Gatos)

According to San Jose Mercury, "The Gnats see what fans see, but they’re hesitant to push him too hard during the season because that can wear him out for games. 'You’ve got a point of diminishing returns,' Bochy said. 'Now he gets tired and you don’t see the same player during the game. This will give us a little time to try to get a few (pounds) off.'

No confirmed date for liposuction, while gastric bypass will have to wait until off-season.

LakerDodger24 (Kirby Pls)
LakerDodger24 (Kirby Pls)

@ JohnM I really want to see what the Spurs will come back with in Game 3. They got smothered defensively down the stretch of game 2. 

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

i was attempting to take my talents elsewhere but it appears no one wants my talents

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

seriously i cant downsize the fucking ad. its eating the computer screen

Mike Petriello
Mike Petriello moderator

@nudibranch not on the 40 man. But you can't just scout on a stat line, anyway. He's shown up on almost no scouting lists.

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

@WBBsAs gastric bypass doesnt work with people that do most of their caloric intake with fluids rather than solids

Professor Towel
Professor Towel

@nudibranch @Mike Petriello Withrow has also been in the system for years. He's earned a shot. Aside from the walk rate, which I understand he's improved in recent outings, he's been solid.