Could A Closer Switch Be On The Horizon For Los Angeles Dodgers?
Change is brewing in the bullpen of the Los Angeles Dodgers 36 games into the 2013 season.
The position of closer was given to Brandon League during the offseason when he signed a three year, $22.5 million contract. League came over to the Dodgers for two prospects in a late season trade in 2012 with the Seattle Mariners. At the end of the season the closer job was League’s as he took over after Kenley Jansen had heart problems and spent most of the last month of the season on the shelf.
Jansen began the 2013 season the same way as the previous season as the clubs eighth inning set-up man. Last season Jansen was dubbed the closer on May 9th after Javy Guerra got out to a bad start blowing three saves with a 1-3 record and 5.40 ERA. Jansen, who originally started his career as a catcher in the minor leagues, would go on and save 25 games with a 2.35 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP, and a filthy 13.7 K/9.
The combination of League ending the 2012 season as the team’s closer and signing the lucrative deal in the offseason made for a tough decision for manager Don Mattingly to pass over Jansen for the role. Fast forward to the present and although League has nailed down eight saves in nine tries, he has also pitched poorly.
With Sunday’s appearance in a 5-1 ballgame against the Miami Marlins, League gave up three hits and two runs. The closer’s ERA has now ballooned to 6.28 with a 1.40 WHIP to go along with his 0-2 record. For the second straight year the Dodgers’ closer pales in comparison to the set-up man as Jansen has a 1-1 record with a 2.29 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP.
Jansen also appeared in Sunday’s game in the seventh and eighth innings striking out four of the five batters he faced. The big man has now struck out 12 of the last 18 batters he has faced and has been dominant for the most part this season.
Mattingly has been mulling the decision since last week and has been asked several times about the change. The manager has been quoted as saying, “I can’t say I haven’t given thought to it. The games that Brandon’s given up runs are games that he wasn’t necessarily closing. Kenley’s been throwing the ball good. Yeah, I’ve given thought to it. … I’m just still thinking about it. We still talk about it, go back and forth. It’s like anything else — all of a sudden we flip it, then we got a mess. Not that we’re not in a mess already a little bit.”
Eventually there comes a point where giving up runs is just not good enough. With the two wins in a row coming off the eight game losing streak, the team’s record sits at 15-21 which puts them seven games behind the San Francisco Giants for first in the National League West. There is no room for error at this point of the season as we creep towards June.
How long Mattingly sticks with League is anybody’s guess but if the results remain the same, the change has to be made. Jansen has proven that he can be the closer and his numbers compared to League’s stand up against any argument. Unless League starts pitching better, the move will be made.