Brandon League still Seattle’s closer after four straight losses

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After going 9-for-9 saving games to begin the season, Brandon League just turned in maybe the worst week a closer has ever had, taking losses in four straight appearances and blown saves in each of the last three. Overall, he gave up 10 runs in 2 2/3 innings over four appearances.

He became the first reliever since the Nationals’ Ron Villone in 2009 to take losses in four straight appearances.

What the stretch really brings to mind, though, is the one Brian Fuentes, then with the Rockies, had in 2007. Fuentes, an excellent closer for 2 1/2 years, suddenly lost it at the end of June. He took blown saves and losses in four straight games over an eight day stretch, yieldding 11 runs — eight earned — in 2 1/3 innings in the process.

The Rockies felt they had no other choice but to pull him from the closer’s role and go to Manuel Corpas. Fuentes went on the DL just a week afterwards because of a strained lat muscle. He returned and pitched brilliantly as a setup man in the second half, amassing a 1.52 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. Things went well for the Rockies, too, as they advanced to the World Series before losing to the Red Sox.

League, of course, won’t be contributing to a postseason run this year, not unless he’s traded anyway. And the Mariners really want him to succeed in the closer’s role with David Aardsma potentially done for the year. They do have three relievers with sub-2.00 ERAs in David Pauley, Aaron Laffey and Jamey Wright, but they’re all failed starters with mediocre stuff.

As things stand now, it looks like manager Eric Wedge is giving League one more chance to keep his job. Another blown save, though, and it will probably be Wright’s turn to close.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.