When the Dodgers acquired Brandon League last season and made him their closer many people wondered why they’d do that with a far superior option available in Kenley Jansen. And then when the Dodgers re-signed League to a bloated three-year, $22.5 million deal and stuck with him as their closer many people wondered the same thing again.
Things have played out as expected, with League struggling in the closer role and Jansen being his usual dominant self as a setup man, and manager Don Mattingly appears to have finally seen the light.
Jansen got the nod over League to record the final out (and save) after Clayton Kershaw came up just short of a complete-game shutout last night and afterward Mattingly was evasive when asked if ninth-inning duties had changed hands:
We’ll see. I don’t know if I really have to set roles. We always talk about where we’re at in the lineup. I know we like to create controversies and all that. Honestly, I prefer having roles where everybody knows where they’re at. But tonight I felt like Kenley was the best shot of getting that guy out.
He’s right of course, although the same applies every night.
Jansen debuted in 2010 and has thrown 166 innings with a 2.23 ERA, .152 opponents’ batting average, and 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings, which is arguably the most dominant performance of any pitcher in baseball during that time.
Over the same span League has thrown 227 innings with a 3.34 ERA, .241 opponents’ batting average, and 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings, which would be perfectly good late-inning relief work and perhaps even closer-worthy if not for the fact that Jansen is on the same team.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.