Part of me cringes whenever I think about a guy losing his job simply because he’s injured. It seems to me, if you were good enough to hold down a position before you were injured, you should still be good enough to get it back when you’re fully healthy. After that, it should be your play – and not necessarily the play of another – that determines whether you keep your job or not.
But, that cringing part of me doesn’t really love the idea of David Aardsma coming back and being our closer.
After two full years, we know what David Aardsma is. He’s a right handed power pitcher with decent-to-good command of his fastball, who isn’t afraid to pitch inside and who isn’t afraid to pitch up in the zone. He gets a lot of flyball outs and generally makes every 9th inning he’s involved in one of the most exciting 9th innings of that particular day’s worth of baseball. Outfielders who like to show up on Baseball Tonight for their Web Gems LOVE playing behind David Aardsma.
He’s had 69 saves in those two years, out of 78 chances. He’s had 119 strikeouts in 121 innings pitched over this period. His ERA was 2.52 in ’09 and 3.44 last year. He’s BEEN effective. Which is impressive, because that’s the exact opposite of what he had been before he came here.
David Aardsma isn’t a bad guy. But, he’s a known quantity, and for that I say, “Out with the old!”
Brandon League is exciting! He’s a bit of an unknown in that we haven’t had a chance to see him close for a full season. Yes, last year he was frustrating at times – he probably single-handedly cost us anywhere from 5-10 games with his meltdowns – but there were also times where he was abso-fucking-lutely brilliant! How about the stretch between July 23rd and August 29th when he made 19 appearances and only gave up 1 earned run? 1 earned run in 23.2 innings!
You know what League’s got that Aardsma doesn’t? An out pitch.
Here’s the scenario: Jamey Wright comes in to start the 9th inning of a tie game. He walks the leadoff batter, they sacrifice him over to second base, then he proceeds to walk the bases loaded. We need 2 outs to get out of this inning and give our guys another chance to score.
Option A: bring in David Aardsma. He starts pumping fastballs left and right, gives up a flyball to deep center, and that’s our ballgame.
Option B: bring in Brandon League. He starts pumping 98 mile per hour sinkers, then flipping it on them by throwing his wicked split-finger. The odds of a strikeout by swinging over the top of his forkball are WAY better than a strikeout by swinging through Aardsma’s straight fastball. League also has the added advantage of being able to induce ground balls. Ground balls lead to double-plays. A double-play would get you out of that scenario unscathed, in case you were wondering.
You want more reasons? How about the fact that Brandon League is most certainly a part of our future at the position. David Aardsma is trade bait. He’ll make just as good bait by being our 8th inning set-up man as he would by being our closer.
You know how I know League is our future? Because we traded our top draft pick for him! Brandon Morrow may or may not develop into a front-end-of-the-rotation starter; regardless, he was a top prospect sent packing. To recoup even a fraction of that deficit, we NEED League to be our closer and to be our closer for the duration.
And, as long as League can somehow avoid the massive 4+ run meltdowns of last season, I think he can be that guy for us. So far through a month he’s gone 12 innings and only given up 3 earned runs. He’s 8 for 8 in save opportunities. I’d like to see him build on this momentum. But, to do that, it’ll mean denying the leader of this bullpen from the last two years.
One thing on my side: Eric Wedge wasn’t our manager the last two years. He doesn’t necessarily owe Aardsma a damn thing.