What a difference a year makes. Heading into 2013, Brandon League was the Dodgers closer with a brand new contract under his belt. Now, after arguably the worst season of his career, League is simply trying to find a role in a crowded Dodgers bullpen.
League parlayed a successful two months in 2012 after getting traded to the Dodgers into a lucrative three-year deal. But his first full year with the Dodgers was disastrous.
He blew four saves in the first two months and lost two other games that were tied when he entered. He was displaced by Kenley Jansen as closer in early June and essentially relegated to mop-up duty the rest of the year. League was left off the Dodgers roster in both the NLDS and NLCS.
The good news for League was that after a dip in 2012 his ground ball rate was back at 59.8%, in line with his successful seasons in Toronto and Seattle from 2008-2011 (59.9%).
The bad news was just about everything else. League put up a 5.30 ERA, a 4.93 FIP, and batters hit .304/.354/.465 against him. He could have been a bit unlucky with home runs, as 19.0% of his fly balls left the park, nearly double the normal rate. As such, his xFIP was a much more reasonable yet still below average 4.07.
The main bugaboo for League was simply not missing bats. He struck out only 11.2% of his batters faced last year, his worst mark since 2005 in Toronto, and well below his 16.9% career rate.
League still has two more years left on his contract and isn't going anywhere, so the Dodgers have to hope he regains some of the late 2012 form that brought him back in the first place. The Dodgers do have incredible depth in the bullpen and the luxury of keeping League in low-leverage innings if need be.
But if League does happen to rebound in any way, all the better.
League was a three-time All-State selection in Hawaii in baseball at St. Louis High School in Honolulu, and in his senior season in 2001 was named Gatorade Hawaii Player of the Year.
League will make $7.5 million in the second season of a three-year, $22.5 million contract signed before 2013.
2013: The closer
|2014 projections - Age 31 season|
I do think League will have a bounce-back season in 2014, with a 3.74 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 53 innings. What's your guess?