Tag: Brandon League

Most Disappointing Dodgers Players in Spring Training So Far

Through the first nine games of spring training at Camelback Ranch, it’s clear that the Los Angeles Dodgers are beginning to shake off the winter rust.

Most of the players are, anyway.

Some members of the team have yet to find their rhythm on the mound and in the batter’s box. While the sample size is small, these players will need to turn things around if they have aspirations of making the 25-man roster when camp breaks in less than three weeks.

Here’s the shortlist of early-spring disappointments for the Boys in Blue.

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Analyzing, Grading the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Most Controversial Offseason Move

The Los Angeles Dodgers began the offseason with one of the most baffling signings in MLB. Two months later, the transaction is still one of the most curious—and potentially terrible. 

Soon after the World Series ended, the Dodgers re-signed reliever Brandon League. That in itself wasn’t an objectionable move.

League compiled a 2.30 ERA in 28 appearances for the Dodgers after being acquired from the Seattle Mariners. He also struck out 8.9 batters per nine innings, nearly the best rate of his career. 

But perhaps because the Guggenheim Baseball Management ownership group is just overflowing with money, the Dodgers gave League a generous three-year contract worth $22.5 million. That’s $22.5 million for a reliever who was only the full-time closer for one season in Seattle. 

As a point of comparison, R.A. Dickey just signed a two-year contract extension for $25 million with the Toronto Blue Jays. Jonathan Broxton, who’s been an established closer, received a three-year, $21 million deal from the Cincinnati Reds

The Dodgers also already appeared to have an established closer in Kenley Jansen, which is another reason signing League seemed odd. The 25-year-old right-hander notched 25 saves this season while striking out 13.7 batters per nine innings.

Unfortunately, Jansen went on the disabled list with an irregular heartbeat and had surgery to correct the problem after the season. The Dodgers were thus likely worried and wanted some insurance at closer, so the team decided to move Jensen to a setup role and give the ninth-inning duties to League.

Utilizing Jansen as a setup man arguably allows Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to use his best reliever in a variety of situations, rather than tie him to the customary save opportunity in which a closer pitches. Perhaps Mattingly will decide to keep Jensen restricted to the eighth inning, as many MLB skippers do.

But Jansen could be used for whatever is judged the most important, high-leverage scenario late in a ballgame. If it’s a situation in the seventh inning with runners on second and third and one out, and a strikeout is needed, Mattingly could call upon Jansen then.

However, some teams prefer to have their best strikeout pitcher in the closer role, looking for a guy who can come in, mow down three batters and call it a night. Jansen seems best suited for that imposing sort of figure.

Yet general manager Ned Colletti was impressed by the job League did as closer, telling the Los Angeles Times‘ Dylan Hernandez that his performance in the last two to three weeks of the season convinced the team that he could do the job. 

League was indeed outstanding in September, posting an 0.55 ERA and six saves in 15 appearances. He allowed one run and seven hits in 16 innings, while also striking out 13 batters. 

If League can be that kind of pitcher throughout a full season, then Colletti‘s faith in him would be justified. But that’s the question, one which makes the Dodgers’ investment such a head-scratcher: It’s a risk. Colletti is taking a gamble that League can be a dominant closer when he’s never really demonstrated he’s capable of that.

Yes, League had 37 saves in 2011, the one season in which he was the Mariners’ designated closer. But he only struck out an average of 6.6 batters per nine innings, hardly the flamethrower that most teams prefer to pitch in the ninth inning. League also allowed 8.2 hits per nine innings, putting more runners on base than a reliever should in late innings. 

But League showed the potential of being a more formidable reliever during his late-season stint, displaying a capability for the role that Colletti obviously feels will make him a good closer for the Dodgers over the next three seasons. 

As mentioned above, League’s strikeout rate during his 28 appearances with the Dodgers was the second-highest of his career. His rate of 5.6 hits allowed per nine innings was also the lowest of his nine major league seasons.

Perhaps League is just better suited to pitching in the National League after working virtually his entire career in the American League. That could be something else Colletti is banking on. 

Ultimately, the Dodgers might look smart for investing in League. The market for closers wasn’t great this offseason with relievers like Jose Valverde, Brett Myers and Matt Capps on the market. Rafael Soriano is seeking to be paid like a starting pitcher. And Brian Wilson is coming off the second Tommy John surgery of his career. 

Taking a chance on a reliever who will turn 30 before the 2013 season begins and has prior experience as a closer was clearly the best option for a team that needed stability in the ninth inning after juggling those responsibilities among Jansen and Javy Guerra this season. 

If it turns out to be a bad investment for the Dodgers, that’s one luxury of having such a large, deep payroll. A franchise with a lot of money can afford to make some mistakes along the way without such misjudgments setting the team back. 

But if Colletti is willing to take a chance on League and he doesn’t work out, can his judgment be trusted on the next reliever he might tab to be the Dodgers’ closer? 


Grade: C


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Seattle Mariners Use 6 Pitchers to Pitch MLB’s 10th Combined No-Hitter

It appears that this might yet again be the year of the pitcher, or in the Seattle Mariners’ case, pitchers.

Kevin Millwood and the Mariners’ bullpen did something that had only been done nine times before Friday night in MLB history.

Millwood removed himself from the game due to a groin injury after the sixth inning, but the rest of the staff took the reigns and continued to shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers en route to a 1-0 victory.

Charlie Furbush pitched to two batters and struck out one of them. Stephen Pryor, who was credited with the win, recorded one out but walked two batters before leaving Lucas Luetge to record another out.

Then Brandon League took the mound with runners on second and third. He was able to pitch out of the jam with a looping out to left field and a strikeout to end the eighth inning.

Tom Wilhelmsen recorded the save in the no-hitter in a one-two-three ninth inning. Dee Gordon made the first out of the inning on a slow grounder to shortstop Brendan Ryan. It was a play that could have been called either way, but on this night, the Mariners got the call.

Don Mattingly and Gordon argued the call but to no avail. Multiple angles showed that the play could have gone either way.

There are very few no-hitters without controversy, and this one will have this play as the source of controversy.

Millwood struck out six batters in his six innings of work before leaving the game to the bullpen.

It is the Mariners’ third no-hitter in franchise history and the first combined no-no. The no-hitter comes just one week after Johan Santana threw his no-hitter for the Mets. 

According to the SportingNews.com, the most no-hitters in one season occurred in 1990 and 1991 when there were seven in each season.

How many more no-no’s might we see before this season is over?


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Oakland Athletics’ Coco Crisp Reveals The Toughest Pitchers He’s Ever Faced

Oakland Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp is one of the key players in the team’s pursuit of the American League West division title in 2011. The veteran is entering his 10th season in the big leagues and brings a lot of wisdom and experience to a rather young group.

Crisp started his career with the Cleveland Indians in 2002, before joining the Boston Red Sox in 2006. In Boston, he helped the team win the 2007 World Series. Crisp spent the 2009 season with the Kansas City Royals, before joining the A’s as a free agent in 2010.

During his big league career, Crisp has 941 hits in 3,396 at-bats (.277 average). He’s had some success against the game’s best pitchers. He holds a career .366 average against Mark Buehrle, a .400 average against Justin Verlander and a .289 average against Roy Halladay.

Some notable pitchers that Crisp has struggled against are Jered Weaver (.059 average), Matt Garza (.077) and A.J. Burnett (.105). 

I asked Crisp if he could name the toughest pitchers he’s ever faced in his career. 

“There are a lot of guys that are really good,” Crisp responded. “The pitching is unbelievable nowadays. You’ve got to be on point when you step in that box.”

Here is Coco Crisp’s list of the toughest pitchers he’s ever faced.

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Seattle Mariners: Ranking 10 Players Who’ll Have Much-Improved Seasons in 2011

Hey, did you hear? The Mariners were lousy in 2010. Terrible. Awful. Dreadful.

Ah, heck. I’ll just link you so you can see all the synonyms for “bad.”

That poor, poor dead horse.

Much has been ballyhooed about the shortcomings of the most recent episode of Mariners’ baseball. Especially due to the predicted success placed on them entering the season. No one had delusions of an express lane to the division title, but it was widely thought they could duke it out and hang in there in a weak AL West.

A knockout in round one is hardly hanging in there.

So, let’s all agree to officially move on. We’ll start by focusing on the immediate future to see how we can expect some of those let downs to turn around, becoming 2011 success stories.

When your baseline is so low, a relative term like “much” doesn’t seem so far-fetched, right?

However, I believe the improvement from certain players next season will unquestionably be seen as a large step forward.

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10 Offseason Moves the Seattle Mariners Need to Build Around Felix Hernandez

The list of things that went right with the 2010 Seattle Mariners season starts and ends with Felix Hernandez.

King Felix should be the favorite for the Cy Young after a stellar season that includes a 2.31 ERA (second in baseball), a 1.06 WHIP (tied for fourth in baseball), and 227 strikeouts (second in baseball). 

Ichiro Suzuki is pretty good too, recording his 10th straight 200-hit season early last week.

After that, however, the Mariners roster is a collection of misfits, underachievers, over-the-hill veterans, and colossal busts. 

Felix Hernandez is one of baseball’s best pitchers. But as that 12-12 record shows, he can’t do it alone.

Here are 10 offseason moves Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik should make to get Felix some help and put the Mariners back into the playoff race.

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Fantasy Baseball Closing Situations: Looking at the AL West Closers

It’s time to continue our journey around the league, looking at each team’s closer situation.  

The AL West saw a major change in their closing duties, with Brian Fuentes dealt in a waiver wire deal.  Let’s take a look at their updated situation, as well as the other three teams in the division:


Los Angeles Angels

Closer: Fernando Rodney

Waiting in the Wings: Kevin Jepsen/Francisco Rodriguez/Jordan Walsen

Closer of the Future: ?

Brian Fuentes had been fine in his role, but did anyone truly have faith in him?  He went 23-for-27 in save opportunities thus far, but he struggled a bit with control (4.2 BB/9) and home runs (1.2 HR/9), while benefiting from some luck (.250 BABIP). 

Now, he’s a setup man for the Minnesota Twins, being traded yesterday.  Rodney has had his own problems this year, with a 1.45 WHIP due to a 4.7 BB/9.  In fact, his WHIPs the previous two years had been 1.59 and 1.47.  He’s going to get save opportunities, so he’s a low-end option, but that’s about it. 

Clearly, at 33 years old, he is not a long-term answer in the closer’s role.

The Angels don’t have a specific solution past 2011 (Rodney is signed for another year), though Michael Kohn and Ysmael Carmona have potential and any of the guys who are “waiting in the wings” could emerge if they can put a positive streak together. 

Kohn posted a 2.15 ERA over 46.0 innings between Double and Triple-A, while also posting a 3.27 ERA in the Majors. 

Carmona posted a 2.60 ERA over 55.1 innings at Double-A.  Unfortunately, both have struggled with control. 

Of course, a starter like Fabio Martinez Mesa could ultimately transition to the bullpen, but he’s impressed at Single-A (3.92 ERA, 141 K in 103.1 innings), so at this point it’s tough to predict that.


Oakland Athletics

Closer: Andrew Bailey

Waiting in the Wings: Michael Wuertz

Closer of the Future: Andrew Bailey

Bailey suffered from injuries this season, but that seems to be the only thing that can stop him.  He’s gone 20-for-23 in save opportunities while posting a 1.52 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. 

That comes after a rookie year in which he posted 26 saves with a 1.84 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.  If you want to nitpick, his strikeouts are down, but you’d expect that to rebound. 

At this point, the 26 year old is entrenched for the long haul.  Wuertz did fine in his short stint while Bailey was on the DL, but he’s not likely to get many opportunities moving forward.


Seattle Mariners

Closer: David Aardsma

Waiting in the Wings: Brandon League

Closer of the Future: Brandon League

Aardsma was one of my least favorite closers entering the year, and he hasn’t disappointed with a 4.14 ERA.  I know, it hasn’t been all bad (24 saves, 43 K in 41.1 innings), but he’s not long for the job. 

League, who was acquired for Brandon Morrow, has the potential to grab hold of the job and possibly hold it long-term.  While he’s not an elite strikeout artist (6.1 K/9 this season, 6.7 for his career), he has good control (2.8 BB/9), which certainly helps.

Couple that with an elite groundball rate (62.9% this year, 62.2% for his career) and you get a pitcher with the potential to excel.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see him assume the role full-time in 2011.

Texas Rangers

Closer: Neftali Feliz

Waiting in the Wings: Frank Francisco

Closer of the Future: Neftali Feliz

Feliz has been fantastic since taking over for Francisco, saving 32 games in 35 opportunities with a 3.44 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.  The biggest question is if the Rangers decide to leave him in the bullpen or ultimately transition him back to the rotation. 

While Francisco is no longer the long-term answer, the system is stocked with young arms who could step into the role at some point, like Tanner Scheppers for example.

Still, with the success Feliz has shown, it would appear likely he is going to be there for a while (much like the situation the Red Sox had with Jonathan Papelbon).

What are your thoughts on these situations?

Make sure to check out our look at the other divisions in baseball:


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MLB Trade Rumors: Seattle Mariners Remaining Trade Chips

The Major League Baseball Trade Deadline passes this Saturday, and baseball’s buyers and sellers will be in negotiations all week over potential deadline trades.

The Seattle Mariners are undoubtedly sellers at this year’s trade deadline. At 39-60, the Mariners sit 18.5 games behind the AL West leading Texas Rangers, and have already traded away this year’s most sought after trade target, ace pitcher Cliff Lee.

Having made a clear move towards selling at the trade deadline, the pressure is now on Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik to prepare his team for contention in 2011. Zduriencik must now decide what other players, if any, he can deal at the deadline.

Here is a quick list of five current Mariners who could have new addresses by next week.

2B Jose Lopez

The Mariners seem to have a future built around LF Michael Saunders, C Adam Moore, 1B Justin Smoak, and last year’s first round draft pick, converted 2B Dustin Ackley.

Ackley was recently promoted from Double-A West Tennessee to Triple-A Tacoma, and in his first game in Tacoma, he hit a walk-off sacrifice fly. Ackley is a sure bet to factor into the Mariners’ future, and if they want to get him big-league experience this year , they may try and shop Lopez for additional prospects.

The Phillies are actively searching for a replacement middle infielder, as injuries have plagued regular 2B Chase Utley and 3B Placido Polanco. With Polanco currently filling in at second base, the Phillies have the flexibility of searching for a second baseman or third baseman.

Don’t be surprised if the Phillies make a play for a middle infielder—it might turn out to be Jose Lopez.

Chance of Being Traded: Medium

1B Russell Branyan/1B Casey Kotchman

The Seattle Mariners currently roster first basemen Justin Smoak, Casey Kotchman, and Russell Branyan, and have Mike Sweeney on the Disabled List with back problems. It’s a crowded infield, to say the least.

The simple fix to this situation would be dealing one-time-starter-but-now-ineffective Casey Kotchman to a contender as a late inning defensive replacement and occasional pinch hitter. Unfortunately, his .215/.294/.654 line is uninspiring, and is unlikely to coax a contender into exchanging prospects for his services.

Seattle’s acquisition of Russell Branyan in late June was so uncharacteristic that Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times thought the initial report of the trade was a hoax. At the time, Seattle was 14 games out of first place, and seemingly out of contention in 2010.

Now, if the Mariners want to deal a first baseman, Branyan may be the most attractive trade bait. It would be ironic for the Mariners to acquire and trade Branyan within a month, but the current roster makes him disappointingly expendable, and Jack Zduriencik might make a move that is best for business, and not just fan appeal.

Here’s to hoping that a rival executive wakes up and says, “I need a .200 bat with Gold Glove caliber defense.”

Chance of Being Traded: Low

RP David Aardsma/RP Brandon League

Every year, relief arms are dealt at the Major League Baseball trade deadline. Often, closers become set-up men and specialists are exchanged as teams race to acquire quality arms (a seemingly unending race). Since 2005, notable names such as Eric Gagne, LaTroy Hawkins, Kyle Farnsworth, Arthur Rhodes, and George Sherrill have been moved in deadline deals.

Jack Zduriencik has a malleable bullpen in front of him. Sending 26-year-old RP Mark Lowe to Texas in the Cliff Lee trade was shocking, even though Lowe was injured, because Lowe has a power arm and high potential. Now, Zduriencik must decide if he will also move 27-year-old Brandon League and 28-year-old David Aardsma.

Aardsma seems the most likely to leave Seattle. His 2.52 ERA last season is looking more and more like an exception to his career numbers, and some clubs have shown interest in his services.

League is a more complicated issue, because Zduriencik gave up former first round pick Brandon Morrow to acquire League earlier this year. Morrow’s 4.71 ERA is nothing impressive, but he has fanned 119 batters in 107 innings pitched, and is still in his mid-twenties.

If Zduriencik decides to move League, he could face criticism if he is unable to obtain at least a Morrow-caliber package in return.

Chance of Being Traded: High

It remains to be seen what the Mariners will do in the coming week, but don’t be surprised if any of these names move elsewhere as the Mariners build for 2011.

Do you agree with these potential trade candidates? Comment below with your thoughts!

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Report Card: Grading the Performance of the Mariners’ Off-season Pickups

Although cloudless days continue to appear in Seattle’s summer sky, locals are still advised to carry umbrellas… because Jack Zduriencik is quickly plummeting downwards.

Just months after being hailed as a hero in the Emerald City for his roster overhaul filled with top-flight players, the Mariners general manager is now being scrutinized for not meeting his team’s needs in the off-season. Much of the blame is being pointed towards Zduriencik for the lost 2010 season, which carried in high expectations but has completely faltered.

However, the atrocious 35-53 record should be linked to the under-performance of the players, especially those acquired last winter, not the man that signed them.

The All-Star Break is the perfect time to evaluate how the season has gone thus far. Similar to the end of first semester, it’s time to handout report cards and grade the newest Mariners based on their first-half play.

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