Leave it to the Los Angeles Dodgers to provide a storyline ripped from Hollywood. This is something out of one of those body-switch movies, like Freaky Friday. Brian Wilson with an ERA north of 10, and Brandon League sporting a sub-2.00. What happened here? Last year, it was Brian Wilson who was dominant in his first few months in a Dodgers uniform and Brandon League was the dumpster fire. But now…
Brian Wilson might want to check League’s locker for a tuft of his beard, because I don’t know how else to explain this role reversal. Last year, the Dodgers solidifying their bullpen roles with Jansen as the closer, and then Wilson as the setup man was one of the reasons they were so successful. It was League who was banished to mop-up duty in games that were out of reach. But what was once the team’s strength, is now its weakness. Much of that has to do with the puzzling collapse of Brian Wilson.
Wilson doesn’t give Dodger fans hope looking at his stat line. He has a 10.22 ERA, 2.43 WHIP and opponents are hitting .321 against him. He walks too many guys, and when he does throw strikes, guys are teeing off on him. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly says there’s nothing physically wrong with him. Usually a decrease in velocity is a good indication something’s not right–but Wilson’s fastball is right there where it was last year, averaging out at 93 mph. It’s a mystery that’s befuddled Dodgers coaches and infuriated fans, and until it’s figured out, Donnie needs to keep The Beard far away from any significant game action.
And at the other end of the spectrum, there’s Brandon League. Fans cringed when he entered a game. He was booed. He was heckled. Nothing was going right. And then, since the Dodgers trip to Australia, he’s been exceptional. Maybe he visited some witch doctor Down Under, or discovered some kind of magical gem deep in the Outback…whatever the case may be, he’s won back the Dodger fans, and more importantly, restored his confidence.
Maybe League discovered time travel, because he looks much like the Seattle Mariners closer from 2011 who saved 37 games. He has a 1.59 ERA, and a 15/6 K/BB ratio. League is relying on his fastball more this year, throwing it 78 percent of the time. When he’s locating that, he gets ahead in the count and can get hitters to swing at balls outside the zone. Pitching and real estate: location, location, location.
It’s time for Donnie to give Brandon League a shot at a more significant role, give him a chance to earn that money. He’s proved he at least deserves an opportunity to take that seventh or eighth inning setup man job. But he better hurry, because who knows how long this magic will last.