league_2014-03-10

Brandon League Isn’t Making Any New Friends

It’s probably not fair to just talk about Brandon League. But it sure is fun. Not as much fun, I imagine, as Josh Donaldson had when he saw this fat pitch:


GIF Link

League entered today’s game having allowed 6 of 12 previous spring batters to reach, and then he immediately walked old friend Nick Punto. That was followed by the Donaldson blast and… well, look, I say all the time that spring numbers don’t matter, so I’m not going to quote ERA or batting average against or anything here. But you can still apply some context to what you see. For example, I wrote at FanGraphs this morning about how Sergio Romo‘s awful spring isn’t a big deal, because he’s holding off on his trademark slider specifically in order to work on his changeup. He’s not trying to get outs. He’s trying to improve something lesser against live competition.

But League, as far as we know, isn’t trying that. And unlike Romo, who has a solid reputation and a spot locked up, League can’t go through an entire spring looking terrible. I mean, maybe he can, because of that contract, but so far this spring he’s not done much to show that he’s past his 2013 collapse.

I still don’t think the team will simply cut him, nor is it likely there’s a trade partner, so I don’t know how or if there’s a way out of this. But again, it’s worth remembering how many bullpen options there are. It’s worth noting that Kenley Jansen and J.P. Howell and Brian Wilson (who left the game early today, though it didn’t appear to be anything serious) and Jamey Wright and Chris Perez and Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow and Paul Maholm and Jose Dominguez and Seth Rosin all exist, and all with various cases to be on the roster.

They won’t all be on the roster, because they can’t. Some will be in Triple-A, and Rosin probably gets offered back to the Phillies. But the more I see of League, the more it seems that whatever bullpen composition the team leaves Arizona with won’t necessarily be the best possible collection they could have.

***

Fine, other things that happened today: Andre Ethier crushed his first dinger of the spring, and Juan Uribe went deep too, while Hyun-jin Ryu threw five effective innings, and even Miguel Olivo showed some life by driving in three with a double, and actually stole third base (!).

On the other hand, Dee Gordon went 0-for-3 with an error,  his second of the spring. He is now hitting .185/.242/.300, and again, his hits have come off of Blake Beavan, Andrew CarrawayKevin Shackelford (bunt), Kevin Quackenbush, and A.J. Griffin. No, his line doesn’t really matter much either, but the point is: it’s not impressive.

And yet: Ken Gurnick notes that Alexander Guerrero was in an intrasquad game today while Gordon started at second, and that Gordon is on the list to travel tomorrow to play the Royals, while Guerrero is not. Gurnick thinks the competition is over, and to be honest, he’s probably right. If I were a betting man, I’d bet on Gordon starting in Australia, and Guerrero starting in Albuquerque, and as I’ve said many times, I have no problem with Guerrero kicking off his pro career in the minors. But please, let’s cool it on the “Dee Gordon is a new player” business. Yes, he can run. Yes, his defense has been better than I’ve expected. But what evidence is there that he can suddenly hit? Or that putting him at leadoff, which Don Mattingly has threatened to do, is in any way the right move?


About

Mike wrote daily for over six long years (2007-13) about the Dodgers at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, which was named 2011′s “Best Sports Blog” by LA Weekly. He can currently be found writing multiple times per week at FanGraphs and ESPN, has been a producer and editor for Sports on Earth, and built The Hardball Times. He lives in New York City and will probably be asleep or on vacation when awesome things happen.


263 comments
DodgerBytes
DodgerBytes

Saw a funny cat tweet. Went to copy it to bring here and show Mike...realized Mike is one who RT'd the cat tweet in the first place. 

Lobo
Lobo

Holy shit, Pablo Sandoal is only 27.  I thought he was several years older than that

Vin_Skully
Vin_Skully

Have we ever seen player, getting paid as much as League, get DFA'd purely for poor performance?

His contract appears to be sunk cost, so why give up a roster spot as well. Does Ned think that he can make this signing not look bad? 


DBrim
DBrim moderator

Good lord. Some people can't take a fucking hint.

NoHitWin2008
NoHitWin2008

"Kemp felt well enough after his first intrasquad game action Sunday to play in another game on Monday, going 1-for-5 with a walk, sacrifice fly, two strikeouts and two RBIs. The sac fly and one strikeout were against 17-year-old prospect Julio Urias."

Damn, I woulda loved to see Urias vs. Kemp. 

TheReggieHurley
TheReggieHurley

why did dee jump on that throw???? that just makes it harder LOL. 

capnsparrow (Actual top vote getter for POY)
capnsparrow (Actual top vote getter for POY)

Alex Guererro's contract has a provision in it to start in the minors. They knew he wsn't going to be ready to just step in and fill Mellis's spot. We can hide a bat down in the order until he is ready so its not that big of a deal. Let him get the reps he needs at ABQ and bring him up when hes ready.

nsxtasy
nsxtasy

>> Kenley Jansen and J.P. Howell and Brian Wilson (who left the game early today, though it didn’t appear to be anything serious) and Jamey Wright and Chris Perez and Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow and Paul Maholm and Jose Dominguez and Seth Rosin all exist, and all with various cases to be on the roster.

True.  With League, that's eleven in the bullpen.  At least two of the three guys with options (Rodriguez, Withrow, Dominguez) are likely to start the season in the minors, so that brings it down to nine.  My guess is that either Beckett or one of the relievers starts the season on the DL, and that the other eight relievers make the OD 25-man, keeping Rosin on the team.  Yes that means we start with a short bench of four (probably FedEx, Van Slyke, our fourth starting outfielder, and an infielder from the Turner/Rojas/Figgins group, with Gordon starting and Guerrero going to the minors initially).  Or if Kemp is on the DL, then a second bench infielder as well.  Within the first few weeks, another of the starters or relievers either gets injured or pitches poorly, and at that point our pen goes down to seven and the bench up to five, with Kemp or another infielder added.

MScottEiland
MScottEiland

I'm getting the same feeling I got when I saw Ethier and Kemp losing playing time to Juan bleeping Pierre, regarding both the bullpen and second base.  I know that Mattingly gets stupid ideas in his head that couldn't be dislodged with nuclear weapons, but what in the name of Branch Rickey makes him think that Gordon is a starting second baseman or that giving Brandon League a spot on the twenty-five man roster is anything but weapons-grade idiocy?

NoHitWin2008
NoHitWin2008

@Dustin Nosler  Man, it would be pretty embarrassing to be one of the guys who swung and missed. And even more so if it was just one dude. 

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

@Dustin Nosler  I generate better contact rates when I swing a bat with my hypothetical eyes closed.

And I have no hands.

MScottEiland
MScottEiland

@Blue Simian @MScottEilandUh huh.  Were you watching He Who Bunts during the playoffs?  The single greatest highlight for the Dodgers was Juan Uribe *failing* to bunt in a situation where bunting was *profoundly* moronic, and managing to hit one in the seats.  Joe Torre had four rings when he arrived at Chavez Ravine--it didn't stop *him* from handling his roster incompetently (hint--benching Ethier and Kemp to give Juan Pierre playing time should have meant the job of any man whose fingerprints were on it).

joelydanger
joelydanger

@TheReggieHurley I thought he looked really good. Mixing his pitches and showing some nice athleticism too on a few plays. Command looked good, and it was real encouraging.

NoHitWin2008
NoHitWin2008

@MScottEiland We can't fault Donnie for having to go to Dee...what are his other options? The organization misjudged A. Guerrero's timeline and now he's stuck choosing between a slew of undesirable (albeit temporary...hopefully) options.  

The League thing irritates me even more, but again, does Donnie have that much sway with roster decisions like these? 

joelydanger
joelydanger

@MScottEiland Because the second baseman they want to use needs time in the minors and they paid a lot of money for Brandon League. Colletti can't just dump him because that makes him look bad to his boss. They can only trade him but they would have to pay his contract to play somewhere else and who would want a problem on their roster anyway?

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

@NoHitWin2008 @MScottEiland  I don't think Don made this decision alone. This is a decision that Stan, Don, Logan, Ned, DeJon, etc all made a long time ago. This isn't based on what Alex has done or not done in ST. This is a collective decision to give Dee more reps now because of the shortened schedule. If Australia doesn't happen, then they might have appropriately judged on a fair competition. But because of this trip, they had to make sure they give Dee reps at 2nd base at the expense of ABs now. Guerrero will take as much time as he needs in ABQ.

MScottEiland
MScottEiland

@joelydanger @MScottEilandI find it hard to believe that anyone seriously looks at Gordon (or, God help us, Chown Figgins) and Guerrero and thinks that Guerrero is less ready to start at second--unless the news is somehow failing to report Guerrero is literally crapping next to the second base bag every time he takes the field.  As for League, you just validated my observation that the League situation is Pierre redux--a vastly inferior player is taking up space and costing better players time in the field (or, in this case, the 25 man roster).  Inability to admit errors to this degree should cost the man his job.

Vin_Skully
Vin_Skully

@Lobo - Yeah. We are getting pretty close to League being a punchline though... fans gave Donnie a standing O for taking him out of the game yesterday. 

Lobo
Lobo

@Vin_Skully @Lobo  He's making 14 million over the next two years.  Hard not to be happy about that.  In Jones' case, he apparently thought the fans weren't giving him a fair chance so he wanted out.  If the whole of the fanbase turned against League, he might feel the same.  But Jones' was still a unique case

Vin_Skully
Vin_Skully

@Lobo @Vin_Skully

I doubt League is unhappy with his current deal... even with the lack of playing time. Oh well.

Lobo
Lobo

@Vin_Skully @Lobo Jones was a special case.  He apparently wanted to be released or traded so he reached an agreement with the Dodgers to be released in return for having some of the remaining money on his contract deferred

Vin_Skully
Vin_Skully

@Lobo - Yeah, it looks like he was released after the first year of his 2 year deal... so why not League?

MScottEiland
MScottEiland

@Blue Simian @NoHitWin2008When we saw Dee Gordon last year, he was a super fast, low OBP, zero power crappy shortstop.  In spring training this year, he's been a super fast (and yes, better percentage base stealer than before, for whatever that's worth in spring training) low OBP, zero power, newly minted and not so great fielding second baseman.  Am I missing a diamond in the saliva covered sunflower seed shells here?

NoHitWin2008
NoHitWin2008

@Blue Simian @NoHitWin2008  Gothca. Yeah I feel like Dee's spring isn't as great or as awful as the polar opinions seem to have it pegged. I see some encouraging signs...he seems to be making a conscious effort to hit the ball on the ground, he's been kinda sorta decent-ish at 2B, we've seen some of his dynamic speed, and he seems to be more engaged. The numbers look bad but the approach looks better...so far. 

NoHitWin2008
NoHitWin2008

@MScottEiland @Purple Drank  @NoHitWin2008  As for 2B, it's not that Geurrero is awful or underperforming...the thought seems to be that he's just not ready. He didn't even play ball for like a solid year, he's moved to a new country (and coming from one that's quite isolated), and he probably just needs time to get his feet wet. 

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

@MScottEiland @Purple Drank  @NoHitWin2008  I haven't read at all that Guerrero is "so awful." I've read this more as management wants to make sure Guerrero is absolutely ready before taking over. If management knew that Guerrero was going to start at AAA anyway (that injury in winter ball really sucks), then they need to give reps to Dee Gordon right now, as they have done.

IMO, it validates my opinion that Ellis' option should have been picked up. I said they needed to do this last year, and Mike agrees with this now. 

NoHitWin2008
NoHitWin2008

@MScottEiland @Purple Drank  @NoHitWin2008  I agree that keeping League on the roster (assuming he continues to suck--which most of us do) would be a pretty big failure. I know I've used the phrase before, but this team is too good and has way too much damned money to fall victim to the Sunk Cost Fallacy. It just shouldn't happen.

MScottEiland
MScottEiland

@Purple Drank @NoHitWin2008@MScottEilandThat tends to validate the fear I had when Mattingly got extended--he's going to be a yes man for the worst excesses of current management.  Pierre remained on the roster far too long, League is following the same route, and we're being asked to believe that Guerrero is so awful at second that we have to tolerate a apparently awful as ever Dee Gordon doing on the job training there (I won't even dwell on the horror of Chown as one of the 25 going to Chavez Ravine).  Is anyone buying any of this?

NoHitWin2008
NoHitWin2008

@Purple Drank  @NoHitWin2008 @MScottEiland  Yeah I totally agree. I'm not sure why people are questioning the amount of reps Dee's getting at 2B over Guerrero. It makes sense...if Dee's your OD guy then of course you want him getting used the new position as much as possible. Then Guerrero goes to ABQ and gets his feet wet for as long as he needs. 

MScottEiland
MScottEiland

@joelydanger @MScottEilandIf you're going to eat the $15 million anyway, why wait for a trade?  If someone want to try to make the Dodgers look foolish by turning Brandon League into the next Trevor Hoffman--or even the next Tom Niedenfuer--by picking him up as a free agent I wish them all the luck in the world.  I'll even cheer for the guy when he isn't pitching against the Dodgers.

joelydanger
joelydanger

@MScottEiland @joelydanger Trading him and eating $15 million is completely possible but that doesn't mean it's likely. And not necessarily because it's a move that they refuse to make. You need the right pieces in order and odds are barring some tragedy on another team that means chances are slim somebody wants him. People want him out but it's understandable why he's still there.

MScottEiland
MScottEiland

@joelydanger @MScottEilandThe contract shouldn't be his undoing--refusing to deal with the fact that the contract was a mistake is what should be his undoing if he persists.  Bad contracts happen.  Forcing the bad contract to lose you even more games as you go forward rather than disposing of the problem is the unforgivable offense.

joelydanger
joelydanger

@MScottEiland @joelydangerGuerrero has talent and he learns fast but he still needs time in the minors. He has had to learn basic things like sliding that he was never taught in Cuba. It is better for him to be completely up to speed, skills and confidence, before he takes the position full time. Or you risk creating a bigger problem and make Guerro look like a failed project. He has only had a few weeks to learn 2B. Yes League is taking up a spot that would be better suited for someone who can perform but let's not pretend that the League contract should be Colletti's undoing.