Can he surprise again?
No one expected to be having a conversation about Brandon League as the closer a year ago. In fact, the Mariners expected to have their veteran closer David Aardsma return to his role after a surgery on his hip during the offseason.
Looking to have a temporary replacement for the number one entry in the baseball encyclopedia, the Seattle Mariners management brought in former Indian Chris Ray (who was favored by manager Eric Wedge) lost the role to Brandon League.
There was a lot of uncertainty about League’s selection as closer, but as the season went on, the Hawaiian native began to show real competence for getting the Mariners through high pressure situations.
Brandon League is not the typical high spirited aggressive closer. In fact, he often pitches like he is half asleep, oblivious to the game situation. But it works.
League finished the 2011 season with 37 saves which was third highest in the American League. In company with Jose Valverde and Mariano Rivera, which is quite an accomplishment.
While it looked for a while that the M’s may trade League while his value was high, they instead released Aardsma who never pitched an inning in 2011.
He found himself needing Tommy John Surgery after recovering from the hip operation.
League had about a four game stretch where he couldn’t seem to do anything but set it on a tee for his opponents. Of course he was also 6th in the American League for wild pitches, which for a closer is appalling.
Don’t get me started on it.
It could be that the M’s might still trade League and try to develop another closer, however after avoiding arbitration with League in favor of a $5 million contract, it would look as though the Mariners will keep League as their main man.
League has shown the capability of being an All-Star caliber closer, which the Mariners need to hold on to and finish the close, low scoring games that they have become famous for.
Secondly, League is continuing in his development, and continues to add more pitches to his arsenal.
If his value continues to improve and the M’s season goes sideways, League could find himself on the trading block again.