Actually More on Brandon League

No fooling this time. I promise.

I covered the Brandon Morrow is not as highly valued as we thought angle already. Now, I wanted to actually take a look at Brandon League and see what reasons I could find that might tell us why Jack Zduriencik wanted him here.

Brandon League in 2009 was a very different pitcher than ever before. Relief pitchers are extreme volatile commodities and so departures, even radical ones, from the norm have to be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. The development of a new pitch, some sort of changeup or splitter, was credited with the success but we have all read enough of those stories to know not to simply trust what people say. Instead, I went digging into my pitch database for information.

League had settled in around the 8% swinging strike rate from 2005 through 2008. That jumped to over 14% last season. That's a monumental increase and that he sustained it over 1,105 pitches is encouraging. With that rise in missed bats came the expected increase in strikeouts. League punched out nearly a quarter of all batters faced after being about a 15% strikeout guy previously. Astoundingly, League recorded just six called strikeouts in 2009. The other 70 strikeouts were of the swinging variety.

Those extra strikeouts came as a result of League's new pitch. In 2008 a whopping 79% of League's pitches were over 95 miles per hour. 15% fell in the 85-90 bucket, almost entirely his slider. In 2009, those two figures were 40% and 23% as League was much more spread out in his velocity histogram. The increase in off speed pitches was also shifted away from his slider (which actually showed little horizontal break) and toward his changeup/splitter which acts more like you'd expect a change to, breaking slightly in toward right-handed hitters.

League threw his new pitch roughly 315 times last season, 128 times (41%) for a ball, which is bad but an astounding 35% of the time for a swing and a miss. League used this pitch on approximately 55 of his swinging strikeouts. That gives me a lot of hope that League's step forward is sustainable. For at least as long as League keeps that pitch effective, it's clearly a dynamite strikeout pitch.

How dynamite? And how astounding is that 35% figure? I wanted to know so I grouped every pitcher and pitch type together and then figured out how often each pitcher-pitch grouping was swung at and missed. Essentially, I created a ranking of the most unhittable pitches. Where does Brandon League's splange rank on that list?

Brandon League's off speed pitch was number 1.

Pause and read that again. Let it sink in. I had to put it in bold I was so excited. No pitcher in baseball last year threw any pitch that generated a higher percentage of swings and misses than Brandon League's splitter/change did. Second best was Ryan Madson's changeup, at 30%. League didn't just lead the Majors, his lead was so big, he was jogging the last quarter mile.

I wouldn't expect League to hold onto all of the gains he made in 2009. It's simply too difficult to keep missing that many bats and striking out that many people. But the amount that he embraced his new off speed pitch and the sheer level of it's effectiveness means we could be in for some fun in 2010 and beyond.

Wait, one more thing...

 

 

Happy holidays, everyone.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Lookout Landing

You must be a member of Lookout Landing to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Lookout Landing. You should read them.

Join Lookout Landing

You must be a member of Lookout Landing to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Lookout Landing. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker