We were all relishing the Brandon League free postseason this October. We didn’t have to worry that League was going to be brought in to an important playoff game by Don Mattingly only to blow it the only way Brandon League knows how to do it- quickly and efficiently. Brandon League’s 2013, the first year of a four-year $27.5 million contract which has a vesting option for 2016, was nothing short of disastrous. Can League right the ship and actually pitch well in 2014? Most of us don’t expect him to pitch in the closing spot ever again (Kenley Jansen is the rightful closer of course), but if Brandon can somehow be effective enough to contribute to the bullpen and not blow every game he appears in, then maybe his overinflated contract won’t be such an awful mistake in the long run.
Signing relief pitchers to three or four year deals doesn’t usually turn out well. Brandon League somehow garnered a big deal from the Dodgers last offseason after pitching in 28 games with success in 2012 after he was traded on July 30th from the Mariners to the Dodgers in exchange for two minor leaguers (Leon Landry and Logan Bawcom). That trade wasn’t bad within itself, and Rick Honeycutt somehow fixed whatever “mechanical problem” League was dealing with at the time enough for him to go 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA. He had 27 strikeouts with 14 walks good for 6 saves over 27 1/3 innings pitched in L.A. League looked like he still had some good stuff, but was it worth $27.5 million? No, no it was not.
Can Brandon League be an effective reliever consistently? Photo-Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Brandon League pitched in 58 games for the Dodgers in 2013, and it wasn’t all bad. In fact, out of the gate, League was pitching well and was picking up saves in the closer role in the beginning of the season. Even though I still was angry that the Dodgers signed League to be their closer when they had a homegrown closer in Kenley Jansen already on the squad, League’s start to the season was promising.
Then something bad happened. League’s implosion reminded Seattle fans about the many blown games they endured by the right-hander when he was pitching up north. His “mechanical problem” was apparently back with a vengeance, and even Rick Honeycutt’s pitching coach powers was no match for this project. The project continued throughout the season. League lost the closing job after a string of blown games and awful relief pitching which saw many hits and many runs served up by him. Kenley took over and once again proved why he should never be uprooted from his rightful role ever again. Jansen was dominant out of the bullpen for the Dodgers in 2013 and was integral in their successful run.
Somehow the Dodgers overcame the awfulness of Brandon League, who remained on the roster the entire season until he was excluded from the postseason roster before the NLDS, and Donnie continued to use him in hopes he’d miraculously turn things around.
There were perhaps a few decent innings sprinkled in here and there, but for the most part Brandon League was one of the worst relief pitchers we may have ever witnessed take the mound for the Dodgers. I even can bring up names like George Sherrill, Matt Guerrier, Octavio Dotel, Lance Cormier, etc. who were bad with the Dodgers, but League’s 2013 was specially bad.
Even though League went 6-4, he finished the season with a 5.30 ERA which was the worst of his career since his beginning days with Toronto. He allowed a career-high 69 hits in just 58 games with 8 homeruns allowed and 9 wild pitches. He only struck out 28 batters while walking 15. His Hits per 9 innings was 11.4 while his SO/9 was a low 4.6. It’s hard to believe League was once an All-Star back in 2011 for Seattle. He had 37 saves that season, and he finished with a 2.79 ERA. Can the Dodgers somehow unlock the good Brandon League, or was it that he was never really that good?
On November 4th League posted this picture on his Twitter account:
— Brandon League (@BrandonLeague43) November 5, 2013
Has bad eyesight been the “mechanical issue” League has been dealing with? Could improved vision improve his pitching? We shall soon find out.
The Dodgers will not be trading Brandon League since his contract makes that scenario extremely unlikely. Rick Honeycutt will have plenty of work this Spring Training in order to work out League’s wrinkles in order to hopefully have some sort of effective reliever out of the bullpen in him. Of course I want to see League succeed and contribute to the team, but I’m also wary of placing him in any sort of high stakes situation in a game until he proves that he can actually get batters out. League’s 5 blown saves in 2013 is misleading since he was pulled out of games before completely blowing it quite a few times. Sergio Romo also had 5 blown saves, and the NL leader for blown saves was James Russell with 8 (he pitched in 74 games and League only 58.)
There will be plenty of more opportunity for Brandon League to blow games in 2014, but will the Dodgers have a shorter leash than they did in 2013? We have to remember that League started off well in 2013, so a good start this season may not be a reliable marker. If League doesn’t rebound, his contract may be one of the worst deals struck by Ned Colletti. At least Juan Uribe had a great season in his last year of his contract. Unfortunately we may have many more years to come of Brandon League, so let’s hope that we all will be saying Aloha to Brandon League, otherwise I will have no problem saying Sayonara.