Kenley Jansen may have quelled the "closer controversy" in Los Angeles with his fantastic pitching lately, but Brandon League is emerging as a reliable arm out of the pen again for the Dodgers.
We've known for a few years that Jansen has devastating stuff out of the bullpen, but the dominance he has shown since May 25 is really showing that he should be considered an elite closer. Since that date, he has allowed 21 hits, three walks and four earned runs in 35 innings while stacking up 51 strikeouts.
Since July 24, he literally has been perfect. In eight innings, he has not allowed a hit or a walk to all 24 batters face, and has struck out 13. Jansen closed out the game Sunday against the Cubs by striking out the side on just 15 pitches, and Saturday he struck out two batters and only needed 13 pitches to get out of the ninth.
The Dodgers made Jansen the closer on June 11 after Brandon League basically had a meltdown every time he was given the ball. League had become a bad joke. A closer with a 6.00 ERA after allowing 19 runs, 28 hits, seven walks, and four home runs, with just 13 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched.
League was then used sparingly, almost disappearing from the bullpen, pitching exclusively in non-pressure situations. But not even that was working as he gave up six earned runs in 3.1 innings pitched from June 25 to July 11. The Dodgers' four-year, $27-million closer was not seen in a game for the next 10 days.
Then, on July 21, he pitched two scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out two. That scoreless performance has marked somewhat of a turnaround for League, as he has not given up a run in his last 8.2 innings pitched.
The Dodgers have been using League in just about any situation lately, coming in with inherited runners and even in the late innings of a close, or even tied game.
If League has been able to adjust from his poor start and can become another reliable arm out of the Dodger bullpen, that gives pitchers like Ronald Belisario and Paco Rodriguez, who are used almost every game, a chance to rest a bit more down the stretch of this long season.
Better rested relief means stronger performances out of the bullpen and more opportunities to get the ball to Kenley Jansen. And as we have seen lately, having Jansen on the mound to close out a game is pretty much a perfect ending.