Brandon League Throws a Splitfinger Fastball

There's a lot of confusion over what League's hellacious offspeed pitch is.

My own confustion? is because if you watch him on video, the arm action and diving trajectory look like he's throwing a forkball.  However, if you google the images on him, they often show him with a change grip.

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=== Brandon's Tale ===

ESPN radio had League on, not long ago.  League explained it.

What happened was that League used to throw a straight change, but "because of my arm strength it came in too hard."

He'd been dabbling with a splitfinger since 2006, but only in 2009 did League get the feel for it, he says.  It comes in quite a bit slower than his change, "and I'm able to throw strikes with it."

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=== Crosschecker Dept. ===

What do the stats say?  They back League up all the way, confirming that before 2009, League's straight changeup used to clock 88-89 mph on the gun.  In other words, League throws the ball close to 90 mph using his little and ring fingers.

But League's splitfinger averages only 85 mph, which is a 10-14 mph separation.

In addition, he consistently hits the knees for a called strike with it.

In addition, it dives like Greg Louganis.

.............

3 mph, that is 4-5 feet to the hitter.  That extra two yards of parachute that League got, made the difference. 

He's now untouchable.   2010 will be worse than 2009.  On the radio, League spoke about 2009 being the first year that he got out there consistently and got his feet under him.  2010 is likely to be the bustout.

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=== Comps Dept. ===

What we were seeing, in 2009, was Brandon League come up with a Bryan Harvey-, Francisco Rodriguez-class torment pitch.  KRod got that overhand change curve to the point to where he just loved to torture hitters with 0-1 counts off called strikes. 

Baseball hasn't yet caught on to Brandon League.  But if he's healthy, he's liable to establish himself as Francisco Rodriguez, plus three feet on the fastball.

....

League echoes J.J. Putz, who I scoffed at .... until he came up with that forkball.  Whereupon Putz put up two years of dazzling, 11k, 1bb performances with the hard rock banging away at Safeco.

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=== Butterfly Effects ===

Dec. 21, we were buried in crumpled Dixie cups as we argued that Morrow-for-League was reasonable.  M's fans, believing League to be a 1.0 WAR player, searched for ways to connect it to the Lee trade.

Actually, I'm starting to wonder if this isn't the clearest, easiest way to discern the differences between internet baseball and Safeco baseball.  The great RP.

Brandon League adds a lot more than 1 win to this ballclub, gentlemen.  He may add five.  Or eight.  He may be the difference between -4 Pythag and +4 Pythag this next year.

You can't use math to capture the effect of Eddie Guardado blowing four straight games in late April.  The team is liable to throw in the towel right then and there.  There is a Butterfly Effect in the bullpen.

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Dec. 21, POTD Brandon League noted that League's splitter was a 5-run-per-100 pitch (!!) -- and therefore twice as good as Erik Bedard's vampiric curveball (which we had previously believed to be the best pitch in baseball).

Here more recently, LL & Fangraphs underlined the fact that League's forkball is the very best pitch in the majors.  

That's kinda tough, on hitters, that is, when 96-98 is your worst pitch. (League also noted, on the radio interview, that he's not satisfied with challenging hitters at 97 mph.  He wants to paint at 97.  The vids show him actually doing this.)

My question would be, is League's splitter the best pitch since fangraphs began compiling this data?   Has anybody ever had a pitch better than 5 runs per 100 pitches?  You'd have to start taking runs off the scoreboard.  The M's beat the Angels 4 to -2 last night, kids.

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Dec. 22, we noted that many great teams started in the bullpen, such as all of Pat Gillick's.   Toronto had Henke and Ward.  The Orioles, Pat stockpiled four tough RP's.  The 116-win M's had three 10K hosses.  The Phillies went out and got Lidge.

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All of the apologizing for Capt Jack has centered around the idea that Brandon Morrow musta been worthless after all. 

SSI stubbornly inverts the equation:  Brandon League is worth more than people think he is.

Jack Zduriencik understands that Brandon League, if healthy, could quickly become the best reliever in the majors -- and therefore more valuable than all but the top 10-15 starting pitchers.

I can't wait to watch him.

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Comments

...our top 6 in the bullpen now looks SCARY good assuming Fields or Hill lights the mound on fire in ST (and I think one of them will).

Here's your three closers and the guy who is nominally the closer (LOL) bullpen plus two good rubber-armed middle relievers plus lots of interchangeable parts style world-beating bullpen.

The 2001 Mariners' bullpen would be jealous of this one.

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best pitch I've ever seen.  That was all he threw.  Until League can consistently own the pitch I can't put it in the same category.  I've never seen it so I'm not quetioning what you're saying as far as the dynamics of the pitch, it just needs to be proven over time in my mind.  Satchel Paige and his fastball might also put a claim in for best pitch ever.

Pitchers who were released and then rose to prominence after developing the split finger inlcude, Mike Scott, Dave Stewart, Bruce Sutter and although not released the developement of the split and of course the taking of steroids revitalized Roger Clemmons career.

If League (as the Doc says) has a world class split coupled with high octane heat then we do indeed have the makings of a dominant closer/setup man. 

 

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League's split can't be the best pitch ever -- my nominee for that would be Gaylord Perry's 80-mph spitball when he was 30 years old.  :- )

Just kinda musing on how good League's pitch is, to rack up a 5 run value...

Harvey, Sutter, KRod, Tug McGraw's screwball, a lot of closers had finish pitches that seemed inhuman.

But League's splitfinger is a buzzsaw, no doot's there...

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misterjonez's picture

misterjonez

Mo's cutter, Hoffman's change, Sasaki's splitter (not in the same league as the others, but the spread between his other offerings and the splitter was what made him effective), Guardado's perfectly located 88-90mph FB on the low-near corner for strike one-two-three.  I think every dominant closer has one truly otherworldly pitch.  Heck, Armando Benitez had the big swerving FB in his prime.  Raffy Soriano gets by with nothing more than a low-mid 90's FB with excellent deception and command.

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Most of the 8-year closers have some killer pitch that they can make automatically...

Jack Nicklaus once said, the difference between a scratch golfer, and a PGA player, is that the scratch golfer labors to make his shots... the pro's make them automatically and routinely...

A Goose Gossage can throw 99 on a night-in, night-out basis...  Trevor Hoffman didn't need to find the feel for his devastating changeup when he got to the mound.

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Taro's picture

Taro

2nd half '09 League had a 10.4 K/9 and 5.29 K/BB with a 60+% GB rate.

Did you cheat Doc? :-)

Wierd to see Z pick my favorite RP sleeper. I don't know if thats ever happened before. Watch him trade for Seth Smith or Marc Rzepcynzki now.

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Taro's picture

Taro

70% of League's BIPs in 2009 were to the left side of the infield and centerfield.

Franklin Gutierrez, Jack Wilson, and Chone Figgins are going to cover him there in '10.

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MtGrizzlyFelix does tend to wear down in September. Troubling implications for October, should they get there.5 hours 4 min ago
SABR MattA shame that homer by Seager in the first didn't stay fair.16 hours 19 min ago
Bat571LaRoche WAS FRAMED ! (very nicely by Zunino - nice job, Mike!)16 hours 30 min ago
SABR MattI am reminded of 2007. The whole pitching staff looks out of gas. We're in trouble.16 hours 34 min ago
merksRendooon!17 hours 57 min ago
rick82Two frustrated guys who probably want to be higher up in the system.21 hours 29 min ago
SABR MattYeah...I don't think this says one darned thing about Zduriencik. I think this scout probably had a fight with his wife or found out he didn't get approved for a home loan and vented on a player who he didn't like.21 hours 40 min ago
rick82Seems like a lot of folks think this says something about Jack's dysfunctional regime. But wow, talk about a mountain out of a molehill. They both work for the Mariners? This is simple. You bring the 52 year old scout and the 24 year old prospect into the room, and you talk it out, have them apologize where necessary and shake hands, and make sure something like this doesn't happen again. And, yeah, if the story is true, the scout is taken to a back room by Jack and read the riot act for being an idiot, because he sure as heck is supposed to know better.21 hours 48 min ago
MtGrizzlyWe should probably wait to pass judgement until all the facts come out.23 hours 8 min ago
csiemsButch Baccala, national cross-checker. Here's his story: http://seattletimes.com/html/mariners/2024418207_montero30xml.html and here is a blog he used to run when he was with the Reds (they made him stop): http://baseballthrumyeyes.typepad.com/1 day 1 hour ago
SpectatorBut I don't know what the crosschecker was thinking either. Don't think he's getting paid to be a semi-clever motivator. Just strange all the way around.1 day 1 hour ago
SpectatorI would guess that Montero's long strange trip to Marinerland is done.1 day 2 hours ago
phxterryMontero incident now a news item on ESPN - wonder what Montero's trade value is right now? Who would have ever thunk that the best part of the Montero-Pinada trade for the M's would be Hector Noesi, who has cracked the White Sox rotation and is starting every 5 days.1 day 2 hours ago
csiemsAn M's cross-checker screams vaguely racist taunts at a player and then sends him an ice cream: A) This isn't some nobody, he oversees a region of the US and chances are we've heard of this guy. B) WTF? Fire that guy immediately. I think Montero is justified. C) How low is morale in this organization right now that a staff member is actively rooting against his player? If this is how the organization is run, it's no wonder that the team has developed so few hitters.1 day 3 hours ago
MtGrizzlyWow, Montero. Comedic points to the guy that bought an ice cream sandwich and sent it to him in the dugout.1 day 6 hours ago
Gordon GrossWell , As Cab is a good hitter. Not our hitter, but a decent one.1 day 7 hours ago
Gordon GrossAlso TR, Torres is a nice bonus to squeeze in this ifa season. When the Yankees signed basically everyone and will pay a 15 million dollar fine or whatever for doing so, we got some bodies. Wish we'd gotten more pitching tho. I don't trust 16 year old bats. All our latin success is arms.1 day 7 hours ago
Gordon Grosshttp://m.milb.com/news/article/2014082992025546/montero_restrained_in_altercation_in_boise1 day 7 hours ago
Gordon GrossJesus Montero just had his Ryan leaf moment. An Ms cross checker yelled at him to hustle off the field, then ordered an ice cream sandwich and sent it to him in the dugout. Montero tried to go into the stands after him with a bat. Not good... and someone is getting fired.1 day 7 hours ago