June 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Brandon League (31) returns to the dugout after being relieved in the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Would Development Of A Third Pitch Help Brandon League?

Brandon League had a rough year last year. I think we can all agree to that. We can also agree on the fact that League is a Bum. I mean, he’s a nice guy, a really nice guy, and I wish him all the best in 2014, but let’s face it, the guy is a bum. I don’t mean to be harsh, but anyone with a 5.30 ERA, and only 28 whiffs in 54 frames is not very good at pitching Baseballs.

But League is a Dodger, and I root for every Dodger to succeed, no matter who they are. League’s success is our success. With the guy under contract for another two seasons,and owed a lot of money, there has to be some way of fixing him correct? That’s hard to say. Sometimes you can’t save everyone. You can’t save every player from their inherent bumness. However nobody is hopeless, and there must be a way to bring League back from the brink. Is there a way to save League’s career?

Brandon League-Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When looking at League’s problems in 2013, It’s easy to see why. He wasn’t missing bats, he was pitching to contact, and allowing too many base runners. But looking deep down into the numbers, we can see the real problem with League last year was him falling behind in counts.

You see, the count is probably the single most important thing in Baseball. Some people may not even realize this, but it’s true. Falling behind,or getting ahead in counts is the every day battle in the war of a Baseball game. Your job as a pitcher is to get ahead of the hitters, and put them away. Meanwhile the hitters are all trying to stay ahead in the count, work the count, and finally get on base anyway they can.

League’s problem was his constant falling behind in the count (also known as the Broxton syndrome). But there was a reason for this. If we dig deeper into why league was falling behind in the counts, we see that he primarily only threw two pitches. It’s important to know the reason why. Finding the cause of League’s problems could possibly fix him, if that’s possible.

To me, the root cause of League’s issues is the fact that he only throws two pitches, and one of them the right handers are simply just not biting on.

For example, according to the numbers, league throws two pitches, a two-seamer, and a splitter. He has a slider, but rarely throws it if ever. The problem is, he throws the splitter to right handers, and they’re just not biting, they’re not chasing it. The splitter almost always drops out of the strike zone, putting him constantly behind in the counts. Hitters get two splitters down low, and then the count is 2-0, or 2-1, and boom, they’re sitting dead red on the next couple of pitches, and you know it’s coming since League is behind in the count, and doesn’t have anything else to throw. Perhaps League needs to develop a third pitch?

According to the numbers, league threw the two-seamer 67% of the time, and the splitter 25.9% of the time. He had a slider he threw a mere 9% of the time, and that’s it. Let’s take a look even deeper. Opposing hitters are only swinging at pitches outside the strike zone from league a meager 28% (O-swing) of the time, as opposed to 70% (Z-swing) of the pitches inside the zone. Last season hitters made contact with League’s pitches 80% of the time. That’s well above league average. I don’t need to tell you that when you don’t miss bats, then you better be a ground ball type of pitcher, otherwise you’re in for a world of trouble.

But League is not that type of pitcher, he pitches to contact, and is anything but a ground ball guy. The percentage of times League throws a first pitch strike to a batter (F-strike %) is just 55.4%, and batter’s swinging strike percentage on the pitches that were missed are at a low 9.2%.

That’s all bad. So League comes with the splitter the first two or three pitches, and misses terribly. The hitters just aren’t chasing it. Once he misses with the splitter, he’s gotta come back with the fastball. No other option. League’s fastball is flat with little to no movement.

League actually threw a changeup when he was with Seattle and Toronto, but for some reason stopped throwing it. Something like that would do wonders for his pitching repertoire. It’s a lot harder to hit a guy when you have no idea what he’s going to throw. If you are a two pitch guy then you better have complete mastery of those two pitches. There are two-pitch, or one-pitch guys out there, but those guys have an absolute command over those one or two pitches.

Reports from Camelback indicate League has just started to throw off a mound, so he’s a bit behind schedule. That’s not a big deal as some pitchers move slower during their progression during the spring than others do. League has other problems too. He can’t get left handers out, he has no clear defined role on the club considering he can never ever close again, and we heard he had offseason lasik surgery during the winter. Perhaps he had trouble seeing the strike zone last season? That could explain a lot.

Needless to say, Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt will have his work cut out for him this season with League.

He’s a nice guy, and I hope he does well. I’ll be rooting for him to get back on the horse. However we do have to face the realities that he might not be able to. If league can develop a third pitch, and stop falling behind in counts, then we should probably see a huge improvement from him.

Can League overcome his bumness?-Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Otherwise the Dodgers may have to release him from his contract. Let’s not pretend that that’s not in the realm of possibility, because it is. I’m not saying they’ll do that, they probably won’t, but guys get released for being terrible all the time in Baseball, and Brandon League is no exception. However, results are results, and if you’re not getting them, then you might find yourself out of a job. I’m going to have to use a star trek quote here. The needs of the many greatly outweigh the needs of the few or the one.

I’ll be rooting for Brandon to succeed this spring. I hope he can figure this out. But if not, then the Dodgers might have to cut bait with him as soon as possible for the good of the club.

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