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:


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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.

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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.