Brandon League Has Been Downright Effective
What a difference a year makes. If you had told me Brandon League would be inducing a key double play in a Dodger playoff game allowing the stage to be set for one of the greatest Dodger postseason homeruns in franchise history by Matt Kemp, I would have thought you were crazy. It is rare that I commend Brandon League or write an entire post about the long-haired Hawaiian reliever, but then again baseball is so unpredictable.
During the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ 3-2 win over St. Louis, my heart sank like a ton of rocks after J.P. Howell served up a two-run
October 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Brandon League (43) pitches the eighth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in game two of the 2014 NLDS playoff baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
homerun to Matt Carpenter to tie up the game. Carpenter, who should just be walked by the Dodgers every time he comes to the plate, launched a 89-mph Howell sinker, the first pitch he saw, over the right center field silencing the home crowd. It was devastating, and I nearly cried. After all, Zack Greinke had just went out and pitched his heart out over seven shutout innings, and the Cardinals stole that away with one swing of the bat.
October baseball. I hate you. I love you.
Before the Bison Blast and bubble dance in the bottom of the eighth, there was a key out recorded by none other than belittled and often bashed Brandon League. After Howell’s implosion, the Dodger bullpen could have easily fallen to pieces like we have seen many times prior during the season. The dominoes would not fall this time. Don Mattingly brought in Brandon League, and he got the job done.
Jon Jay was on first base with a single in the top of the eighth, and Brandon League first induced a groundout from the very dangerous Matt Holliday for the first out. Then, Mattingly wisely walked big first baseman Matt Adams. With Miguel Rojas now at shortstop in a defensive switch, Brandon League got Jhonny Peralta to ground into the inning ending double play. Rojas made a play at short which Hanley Ramirez probably couldn’t have, and Dee Gordon swiveled to turn for the second out. While Matt Kemp’s homerun which followed was extremely clutch, Brandon League’s relief outing was equally clutch.
Brandon League has been doing this all season:
Even though we still sometimes cringe when League comes into games because of his past failures with the Dodgers, League has had a very effective 2014 season. The 31-year old who attended St. Louis High School in Honolulu, has not allowed a homerun all season after serving up eight long balls in 2013.
The right-hander went 2-3 with a 2.57 ERA over 63 innings of work in the regular season for the Dodgers out of the bullpen. He struck out 38 batters which was the most he’s collected since 2012. His H/9 has decreased from 11.4 last year to 9.3 in 2014. While he has increased the strikeouts, he has walked more (3.9 BB/9). The increased walks aren’t great, but since he can induce grounders so well it cancels out some of those free passes.
He’s induced 59 ground balls, 21 fly balls and 27 line drives during the regular season. Interestingly, only one of those fly balls turned into a base hit against League. He’s no longer serving up the long fly balls like he was doing last season when he was unreliable out of the bullpen.
His sinker has been working great, and this effective pitch is averaging at 93.7 MPH. He’s inducing grounders 70.7% of the time with his sinker.
League also had 11 holds during the regular season, which was the most he has accomplished since he had 13 in 2010 in Seattle. In fact, League only blew one save all season. He induced 15 double plays during the year, a career high.
This NLDS is League’s first postseason, and so far so good. He’s pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in 2 games, and Don Mattingly has used him appropriately to induce the needed groundouts in late innings. While League is in no way a closer or even a set-up man any longer, he is very useful with men on in high leverage situations now that Rick Honeycutt has seemingly worked his magic and ironed out his mechanical kinks this season.
During the regular season, League pitched 3 innings against the Cardinals and only allowed one hit to them. Although, he has been roughed up at Busch Stadium over the course of his career. He has a 10.13 ERA in St. Louis in 2 2/3 innings of work. A small sample size for sure, and League has been much better this year so I’m not too worried about his past right now.
While I cannot every be totally confident when League comes into a high stakes game with runners on base, I feel as though he’s a great weapon for Mattingly to use when he is looking for that ground out or double play. With Howell seemingly overused and fatigued, Pedro Baez inexperienced, and Brian Wilson well, not exactly great anymore, Brandon League has become a viable option out of the Dodger bullpen for Mattingly during this postseason.
Instead of sighing when Brandon League enters the game, we can now say aloha!