It’s an old cliché, one that we’ve all heard a thousand times: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
But what if it is broken? Conventional wisdom and common sense tells us that if something is broken, you need to fix it.
Brandon League is broken.
Whether or not League’s problems can be fixed by pitching coaches Rick Honeycutt, Chuck Crim or Ken Howell remain to be seen, but there is absolutely zero question that he needs to be replaced as the Dodger closer – and I mean zero.
In the 14 games in which League has appeared this season, he is 0-2 with an ERA of 6.28 and a WHIP of 1.40 – this from a guy who is supposed to slam the door shut on opposing teams when he enters the game in the 9th inning with a lead. It’s kind of hard to describe allowing 11 runs (10 earned) on 16 hits with 3 home runs, one HBP and 4 walks while striking out only 7 in 14.1 innings as exactly slamming the door shut. In fact, it’s more like throwing the door wide open.
Even though League officially has only one blown save in nine opportunities, he has come dangerously close to blowing seven others. Granted, Sunday’s win over the lowly Marlins was not a save situation when League entered the game in the 9th inning with a comfortable 5-1 lead, he came one Juan Uribe great defensive play at third base away from blowing his second save of the season.
It’s no secret to anyone that Dodger general manager Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly tend to hang onto guys and stick to their game plan longer than perhaps they should (see Andruw Jones, Jason Schmidt, Garret Anderson, etc., etc., for examples) – Heaven knows they’ve gone way above and beyond with Luis Cruz; but keeping Brandon League in the closer role any longer is a disaster waiting to happen – something that the Dodgers can ill afford while occupying last place in the NL West and six games under .500.
What do the Dodgers need to do to “fix” Brandon League? I have no idea – that’s up to Honey, Crim and Howell. But what there is no doubt about is that the Dodgers need to move either Kenley Jansen or even Paco Rodriguez into the closer role before League puts the Dodgers into a hole that they will be unable to climb out of.
There is little doubt that Jansen is the most likely and most capable candidate to become the Dodger closer in lieu of Brandon League, but Paco has shown (time and time again) that he is more than capable of getting both lefties and righties out every bit as much as Jansen or anybody else in the Dodger bullpen. And with left-hander J.P. Howell in the pen and with Scott Elbert only days away from returning from the DL, Mattingly will have a couple of other options for a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out Guy), thus leaving Rodriguez available as either a set-up man or closer with Jansen – and yes, the Dodgers need to remove Ronald Belisario from that set-up role because he too is broken.
Will the respective roles of Brandon League, Ronald Belisario, Kenley Jansen and Paco Rodriguez out of the Dodger bullpen soon be changing? Only Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly know this for sure. But what we all know for sure is that fixing something that isn’t broken is foolish, not fixing something that is broken is even more foolish.