Brandon League's glorious name popped into my world twice yesterday, a rare occurrence for my favorite freak. He was featured in a mini bio in the print version of the Star; stating that his favorite place to eat in Toronto is Fune and his favorite sports team is the University of Hawaii Football Fightin' Rainbows. League then went deep into the sportswriter's cliche handbag and professed his love of In N Out Burger! Oh Brandon, you make me so happy. When asked who is the best player in the league at your position, he came correct:
Roy fucking Hallday, who else? I'm may be a little slow, but come on, I get to watch him from 300 feet away, it's retarded. It's like we're not even playing the same sport. He's tossing BBs in the dark, I'm hoping to get maybe five guys out while throwing the same screwball-come-sinker-come-reverse frisbee over and over. Honestly, the only person I admire more than Roy Halladay is Mathew McConaughey.More accurately, he simply said Roy Halladay. Oh and he has a dog named Dirty Sanchez. Classy.
Later I came across League's name again on Fangraphs, where Dave Cameron showed the correlation between velocity and strikeouts. The graph shows, somewhat unsurprisingly, that guys that throw harder tend to rack up more Ks. Lo and behold, there is League's name, waay off the regression line as the Kahuna gods intended.
Fangraphs is the rare site that features knowledgeable commenters that add to the level of discourse, which is already well beyond my feeble brain. Some of the comments pointed to the use of K/9 rather than K/BF, suggesting that a pitcher with a good defense behind him (check) that induces a lot of groundballs (check again) is punished slightly, for the purposes of this exercise. There is also something to be said for selection bias in big league baseball, as a "live arm" will get dozens of chances while a soft tossing control type isn't thought to have the same "upside". It's pretty clear from their graph that more velocity = more missed bats, more often than not. Exactly the kind of nerdy numerical bullshit that sucks me in every time.
Good old Brandon League's name features prominently on the graph as a guy that throws really hard but doesn't have overwhelming strikeout numbers. To suggest League's K/9 numbers punish him as a groundball machine is letting League off a little easy. His limited repertoire allows hitters to sit on his one good pitch; luckily for League it's so good they can't do too much with it. His K/9 in 2008 was 6.27, or 23.2% of his outs were recorded by strikeout. His K/BF was only 16.3%, likely due to his slightly atrocious walk numbers. His contact rate is among the team's highest, though it is very similar to fellow groundball maven Halladay's. Halladay notches more strikeouts (and a million fewer walks) by having hitters swing at pitches out of the zone, something League doesn't do nearly as well.
Either way, Brandon League is one good secondary pitch away from being nearly unhittable. But who isn't.