Everybody has been less than enthused by the performance of Brandon League, the Dodgers’ closer, this season. By everybody I mean fans, coaches, management, local sports writers, the national media, you know, everybody. When Don Mattingly made the decision early this week to officially name Kenley Jansen the closer it was a welcome announcement.
On Saturday afternoon in Pittsburg Kenley Jansen promptly blew the save. Non-closer Brandon League pitched a scoreless 11th inning for the save. It wasn’t without drama. League after allowed two hits. But it is a save nonetheless.
And Mr. Closer (we just say closer), the man who couldn’t be hit, Kenley Jansen, once again could not handle the specter of closer. This shouldn’t affect his status as closer though. League blew 4 saves before he was officially removed from the role.
Should the Dodgers go to closer by committee to subvert the problems with the closer role?
In the absence of someone who has really asserted control over the role, why should Don Mattingly give any unnecessary pressure or stature to a player who hasn’t earned the title, or a player who is likely to blow it anyway. By continually waffling between closers, Mattingly is setting up both Jansen and League to fail.
Jansen is clearly the superior pitcher. Brandon League sports a wild 5.54 ERA, and Jansen has a confident 2.57. Jansen strikes out 12.6 batters per nine innings, while League on;y gets 4.5 batters to whiff out of every 9. Mitch Williams on MLB Network called Kenley Jansen a young Mariano Rivera on Friday. What? Seriously? The reason was because he throws a natural cutter. But Jansen is a catcher turned pitcher, and despite several opportunities at closing over the last several seasons still has not secured the position. He is no Mo.
If I had to choose one, philosophically I like League as the closer. Recently, Brian Wilson had the personality of a closer but never the stuff. The Tigers have been a dominant team in the AL, even when Phil Coke was trying to blow saves. But the team has to get to the ninth with the lead to have a save to blow. Even erratic and predictably terrible, League can can get the save. I question Jansen’s mental approach. So I think the Dodgers should go to closer by committee until after the All Star break.