COMMENTARY| The Los Angeles Dodgers' bullpen has struggled this year, and Brandon League costing Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers another win last night was just the latest in the misadventures of the Dodgers closer.
Mattingly on the Right Track -- But a Little Late
Manager Don Mattingly said, according to the LA Times, that he used Kenley Jansen in the 8th inning because Jansen would be facing the heart of the Arizona Diamondbacks' order while League would then be able to face a less-potent part of the order.
Jansen did his part and, as we all know, League did not.
Mattingly's decision to use his best reliever against the best hitters is a good one and probably well overdue. His decision to use League in a close game with other better options in the bullpen was not.
League Isn't Major League Material
You don't have to dig deep into League's numbers to see that he isn't a quality reliever. A 6.00 ERA, 1.458 WHIP and allowing 1.5 home runs per nine innings is something that would be barely acceptable out of a pitcher left to mop up duty, let alone one a pitcher who is expected to shut the door and close out games.
Including last night, League has seen five or more batters nine times in 24 appearances. In all but one of these appearances, League was asked to pitch just one inning. In contrast, League has had only 6 perfect innings, most of the time pitching in close games with little to no margin for error.
Not only has League allowed earned runs in ten of his appearances and allowed two inherited runs to score; those are the only two inherited runners that League has had all season.
League Shouldn't be a Top Option in the Dodgers Bullpen
It is pretty clear that even Mattingly has come around to the fact that Jansen is the best reliever. But mixing and matching for a set-up man (or to close out the game in the case of last night) is probably a better option at this point.
And this comes in a bullpen that is not one of the league's best. But mixing and matching would likely have better results than blindly putting League out there.
Last night, the Diamondbacks had a left-hander, right-hander and left-hander due up. This seems like an ideal situation to bring in a lefty like J.P. Howell or -- ideally -- Paco Rodriguez.
Rodriguez has shown himself to be even more than just a LOOGY. He has allowed a batting average of .140 from right-handed bats and .146 from left-handed bats in his short career.
Howell has been great in his 25 appearances this year; he has a 2.25 ERA and is average 8 strikeouts per nine innings. Of the 116 batters Howell has faced, just one has hit a home run.
Ronald Belisario is hit or miss, but even he would be a better option than League at this point. Even though he has a worse WHIP (1.681), his sinking action makes double plays more likely.
League should probably be treated the same way as Belisario is now -- on the same level as Peter Moylan and Matt Guerrier, rather than near the Jansen/Rodriguez tier.
There are only two real options for the Dodgers: putting League in a less prominent role in the bullpen, such as how Matt Guerrier is used, or cutting bait and eating the rest of that contract.
The Contract Was a Mistake
While Mattingly deserves blame for continuing to put League out there, he wasn't done any favors by General Manager Ned Colletti, who inexplicably gave League a three-year contract with a fourth year as a player-option. And Colletti gave League closer-type money.
There are a number of cheaper options who would be able to give the Dodgers the same numbers and with more upside than a 30-year old pitcher who has only had limited flashes of high quality pitching. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, one of those runs of pitching very well came in the last few weeks of the 2012 season.
Matthew Reichbach is a freelance writer and lifelong follower of the Dodgers from their minor league affiliates to the major league club.
You can follow Matthew on Twitter at @3_2count.
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