Random Thoughts: Brandon League

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I wanted to take a look at something a bit different tonight. It’s always nice to change things up. Brandon League was especially hyped going into last year and not just for his “Rick Vaughn” hair cut and goggles. But, also for his wildly successful Split-finger-change-thing that he throws, also named the best thrown pitch in 2009.

But last year came with a bit of “disappointment” from the fan base, despite League posting an ERA of 3.42, his strikeouts per 9/innings dropped rather significantly (from 9.16 to 6.38) and his base on balls over 9/innings raised from the previous season of 2.53 to 3.08.

I think there was a bit of over excitement about what we were getting in Brandon League in comparison to what we were giving up in Brandon Morrow.  We expected a guy that would physically dominate. That he would strike hitters out with overpowering stuff and while his average fastball velocity was over 95 mph he just didn’t miss bats like he had the previous season.

Something that may or may not have been brought up is the startingly fact that while he didn’t miss a lot of bats his LD% was only 16% and he kept ground ball rate at over 60%. Regardless of whether or not guys were hitting him they weren’t making very good contact (short of Kendry Morales and we all know how that turned out.)

Something also kind of interesting is the fact that according to the pitch values on Fangraphs it showed all three pitches (Fastball, Slider and Split finger) , of Leagues, to be thrown average or better. While this in and of itself isn’t a projection, but rather a statement of achievement. It’s still something to remember as we go forward to remember what he’s capable of.

Last thing that seems to be the biggest outlier of them all is that despite being a ground ball pitcher 14.3% of League’s fly balls are going for home runs. That doesn’t seem like much but when you consider that it’s the highest for the team for any reliever with more than 30 IP and that includes both Jamey Wright and Garrett Olson, it makes you wonder if he didn’t run into a bit of bad luck.

Sure looking at his career average FB/HR ratio it’s actually down a bit but that incorporates 200+ innings with Toronto, a noted hitters ball park. I suspected prior to the season that the number would drop pretty dramatically and it in fact hasn’t. It’s something that may need to be looked at closer if he continues to have an issue with it.

I still am inclined to think that Brandon League has a higher ceiling with his peripherals or “stuff”. He may or may not ever achieve that next level, but as is, he should be more than a suitable stand in to begin the season as the Mariner’s closer and should Aardsma get traded he will definitely make for a solid 9th inning guy for the rest of the season.

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