Friday, April 26, 2013

Brandon League's effectiveness, velocity down to start the 2013 season

Brandon League really hasn't endeared himself to fans or those who questioned the 3-year, $22.5 million contract he signed this winter with the Dodgers.

He's currently worse than replacement level (-0.1 WAR) and not exactly inspiring confidence in his late-inning appearances. It's curious as to why that is.

League has always had a good fastball, in terms of velocity. When I heard Steve Lyons say on the broadcast the other day (paraphrase), "League doesn't have the velocity to miss up," I was stumped. Yes, I recognize it's Lyons and he says about 45 dumb things per game, and I thought this was no exception. This was a guy who averaged 95.2 MPH on his fastball last season -- good for 19th-best in the majors.

Through nine appearances this season, he's averaging 93.8 MPH on his fastball. Not exactly Ted Lilly, but also curious as to why he's throwing his fastball 1.4 MPH slower than last season.

League is throwing his fastball at a 61.2 percent clip -- more than 5 percent less than last season (66.7 percent). He's seen his split-finger fastball percentage rise by almost 4 percent and his slider percentage rise by nearly 2 percent. That pretty much makes up the difference, but I'm wondering why League is going to his off-speed stuff more frequently early on this season.

League has struggled in recent outings, giving up runs in three of his last four appearances. He blew a save on Wednesday and gave up a home run to Mets' first baseman Ike Davis on Thursday. Luckily, the Dodgers had a two-run lead heading into the ninth.

Something different from League's last five seasons is he's getting less swings at pitches outside the strike zone. He's been above-average in that respect, but this season, he's getting just 23.7 percent swings outside the zone. The league-average is 29 percent. League doesn't get a lot of strikeouts, so getting swings on pitches outside the zone is paramount. That also comes when his sinker is working well. So far, it hasn't worked well.

This will probably be a moot point (to a certain extent) later in the season. Kenley Jansen is the best reliever the Dodgers have (by a wide margin). The fact he isn't closing right now is both good and bad. It allows Don Mattingly to use Jansen in the eighth inning and -- on rare occasions -- in the seventh inning, when the outcome of the game could still be in the balance. But if the game is in the balance in the ninth inning, League will be the go-to guy, regardless of the situation.

League's not a particularly good strikeout pitcher. He averaged 9.2 K/9 in 2009, which is not the norm. He's never averaged better than 6.8 K/9, which he did last season. This year, he's struck out just three hitters in nine innings (3.0 K/9).

At least he isn't walking anyone. League's allowed just one walk so far this season.

League will, hopefully, get better as the season progresses. Even the Dodgers probably can't (even though they can) afford the luxury that is a $7.5 million setup man.

Photo credit: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue


  1. > Brandon League really hasn't endeared himself to fans or those who questioned the 3-year, $22.5 million contract he signed this winter with the Dodgers.

    It's not League's fault that Colletti's a fucking idiot for handing out that kind of contract.

  2. It's because of his stupid fucking haircut. He's a diva.