Toronto Blue Jays: Brandon League and Jesse Carlson Follow-Up

Ian HunterCorrespondent IAugust 21, 2009

In a post earlier this week I took a look into the recent struggles of Brandon League and Jesse Carlson. While there was some statistical evidence, it felt like I had just scratched the surface on explaining the downward spiral of these two pitchers who at one point were two of the most prized relievers in the Blue Jays bullpen.

Drew from Ghostrunner on First suggested that I venture a little further down into the rabbit hole and immerse myself in the statistics that would scare away an otherwise casual baseball fan. A few days later, after crunching the numbers and combing through pages and pages of statistics, I think I've come up with some more detailed explanations for Brandon League and Jesse Carlson's problems in 2009.

Brandon League 2008.271.7354.08
Brandon League 2009.322.6783.64
Jesse Carlson 2008.235.7703.55
Jesse Carlson 2009.313.7014.25

Just like Ghostrunner on First indicated earlier this season, Jesse Carlson was very lucky in 2008 with a suspiciously low .235 BABIP (Batting Average On Balls In Play). All signs pointed towards a BABIP increase in 2009 (which it did), along with Carlson’s ERA, and FIP numbers among others.

Brandon League’s BABIP in 2008 hovered right around the league average at .271. This year, it’s shot up 51 points to .313, which could also be another indication of League’s problems this season.

It’s hard to believe it, but the Blue Jays were actually better defensively for Carlson and League in 2008 than this season. Both Carlson and League’s DER (Defensive Efficiency Ratio) have taken a hit in 2009, and thus less outs means more runs against these pitchers.

Finally, we look at FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). This stat takes all the fielders out of the equation and only reflects on what the pitcher does. It’s interesting to note that Jesse Carlson’s FIP has risen this year whereas Brandon League’s FIP has actually decreased.

Jesse Carlson Pitcher vs. Batter Stats (2009)
None on.30610833905500621.353.528
Runners on.233862060121211117.311.337
None on/out.3655219504400110.377.692

Looking at these splits, we can see where the problem areas are for Brandon League and Jesse Carlson. But which situation do they perform the best? The answer might surprise you; Carlson actually holds opposing hitters to a lower average when he enters the game with runners on base and/or in scoring position. It’s almost like night and day—with runners in scoring position, Carlson’s opposing AVG is .229. With the bases clear, Carlson’s average skyrockets 77 points to .306.

Brandon League Pitcher vs. Batter Stats (2009)
None on.2611153010
Runners on.25893
None on/out.23447

Although not as drastic, Brandon League’s batter vs. pitcher stats also tell a story of where his troubles and strengths lie. Often as the second or third reliever to appear in the game, League is accustomed to entering with runners on base. Strangely, though, his best numbers are when he begins an inning fresh with nobody on and nobody out.

So what results can we take from this? If I were Cito Gaston, I would play the percentages and use Jesse Carlson in high leverage situations with runners on crazy as that sounds. Brandon League is best served as a late-inning relief guy who can start and finish off his own inning, rather than take over for another reliever.

Sources: Thanks to the experts at Baseball Reference, Fan Graphs and The Hardball Times.


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