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.

.

=== 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."

.

=== 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.

.

=== 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.

.

=== 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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

Klat Categories: 

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.

1

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. 

 

2

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...

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

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.

8

Shoutbox

Please log in or create an account to post shouts.
rick82I'd rather have Saunders than Kemp in right at this point, and I'm not certain which one is less injury prone. I do know which is more affordable :-)21 min 44 sec ago
drmI actually really worry about the rumors that he was terrible off the field. It's the main reason I want to wait. I want nothing to mess with our chemistry. This team seems really close and I worry that a guy who doesn't work hard, will mess with the chemistry. I got the impression teammates were not impressed.22 min 20 sec ago
tjmSome interesting info on the outfield trade candidate front: LA Times piece today on Matt Kemp says he hates playing left field, doesn't play it very well, and is below average in center. He really only sees himself as a right fielder, which limits his value to a team like the M's, I'd think.24 min ago
rick82Seems prudent, drm, but seriously, what does Montero have to prove? The guy will mash lefties falling out of bed, even if his kid's been crying all night. We have some important games coming up and we could really use a lefty masher on our bench for them. Move Hart to first and dh Montero against lefties. If Hart is coming back, that should scare a few left handers.26 min 21 sec ago
rick82The AME (Ackley Mirage Effect) is here: .802 OPS over the past 14 days ("wind aided" by a four day layoff), 1.056 over the past week. Here's something interesting, his "Late and Close" batting average is .283. So, another week of this, and Dustin could become a very valuable chip as well. Or, will Moe's nightmare come true and will we decide Dustin is "fixed"? Stay tuned!31 min 55 sec ago
drmLet's see Montero do it another week at home, then I'll be ready to bring him up. That will be a month of time in AAA.34 min 14 sec ago
rick82Something about Zunino: his numbers are less than impressive, but you know what? Those are very, as Doc would say, "hard rbi's". Mike doesn't pad his numbers in meaningless games. It seems every home run, every RBI, has an important role in a victory. I think WAR understates his real value, and not just behind the plate.39 min 1 sec ago
rick82Now, let's see Franklin get hot, and get a bidding war of sorts going, so at least we can bury these "throw in Maurer and you have a deal" demands.48 min 18 sec ago
rick82I had suspected recent games were better than the overall home numbers suggested, benihana, but I didn't realize they were that good. That is significant. Thanks for doing the legwork. Hart better have a good week if he wants to keep is job. And if he does, I would strongly consider a LoMo/Hart first base platoon sharing DH duties with Montero.52 min 7 sec ago
OBFIt's like the Mariners as a franchise are allergic to good DH's... Ever since Edgar left our DHs have been terrible... call it the Edgar curse I guess...54 min 35 sec ago
Gordon GrossAnother year, another liner to the face for our top hitting prospect. Alex Jackson lost a ball in the lights and left the game after it tagged him in the head. http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140722&content_id=85676790&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_milb&sid=milb1 hour 5 min ago
benihana*7/17 2 hr, 1 2b, 3 BB, 4 k - 6 games. Cherry picking stats is cherry picking stats - but performance since last call-up seems more relevant to me.1 hour 7 min ago
benihanaSince Montero was sent back down to AAA (June 28th) he's batting .411/.588/.824 at HOME! In TACOMA!1 hour 53 min ago
rick82I thought Hart looked better last night as well.2 hours 40 min ago
rick82Last night in Tacoma he hit a homer and a double. We'll have to monitor it, but I suspect a lot of it simply coincides with road games. Maybe he's getting better rest away from the crying baby :-)2 hours 41 min ago
MtGrizzly@ProspectInsider: Re: last tweet -- That strongly suggests his 'hot streak' has been fed very much by the munchies ALB, ELP, SLC, RENO offer. #hitterparadise4 hours 19 min ago
MtGrizzly@ProspectInsider: In his last 23 HOME gms, Jesus Montero is batting .259/.340/.395. That dates back to late May, covering his entire 'hot streak.'4 hours 19 min ago
drmWhen Montero starts hitting at home, then they can bring him up. He's hitting like .240ish at home.7 hours 56 min ago
bsrDontrelle Willis and Carlos Zambrano are both available, and they are both lifetime much better hitters than our DH's.9 hours 18 min ago
bsrrick you are on to something with our DH woes. Can we even fathom the fact that our collective DH this year is hitting 195/272/292 with 8 HR? Even in 2010, we managed a 194/269/340 with 21 HR. Guys - you realize there are EIGHT PITCHERS in the NL with >10 PA's who are hitting better than our DH's. I just...I just don't understand.9 hours 24 min ago