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Big League Closer

Brandon League
Brandon League (Getty images)
I didn't see this coming out of spring training.

Well, I did, sort of. We all knew that Brandon League would open up as the M's closer with David Aardsma on the shelf. What none of us knew was that he would convert his first nine save opportunities...and counting. For what it's worth, most of those have "looked" good too, meaning he didn't seem to be on the brink of destruction.

Even with League's good start, Brandon Morrow still has a WAR edge (0.6 to 0.4) in the early going this season. So, the much-questioned trade is still questionable at best. However, League has the edge in WPA (0.86 to 0.35), which he couldn't say last year with his fatty negative total.

Back to the current Mariners team. Maybe League is just hot right now, and he is bound to cool off. However, with Aardsma likely close to returning, there is no reason to mess with success.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but even when Aardsma returns, I would keep League at closer. As much as I like and trust Aardsma, there is a pretty strong argument for giving the job to League for good.

Let's start with last year. The lasting images of Brandon League are the times he whipped his head around to watch a game-changing home run. According to WPA, he contributed more to losses than wins last year, so it was hard to imagine him as a solid contributer.

However, Brandon League did post a 0.4 WAR last year. That's not amazing, but surprisingly enough it's better than Aardsma's 0.2 WAR. Granted, David pitched 29.1 fewer innings, but that doesn't account for the entire difference.

Even last year, there is a fair argument over whether League or Aardsma was better, but I think League should win most of those arguments in the end. His WAR, ERA, FIP, and xFIP were all better. So, to say that League would be the better pitcher this year was not some quantum leap of faith.

Now, League has at least proven that he doesn't pitch all that differently in the closer's role. He can handle it. He is two years younger than Aardsma, about a couple million dollars cheaper, and not coming off of hip surgery.

Brandon League could be the answer at closer for the next few years, or perhaps even a bit longer. Also, he has the same amount of MLB service time as Aardsma, so all the reasons to trade Aardsma in the off-season could similarly apply for Brandon. However, teams would probably be more interested in a version of David Aardsma that throws with more sink, gets more grounders, has less of an injury history, and is a bit younger and cheaper.

If Brandon League is just hot right now, he will cool down, and Aardsma will get his spot back. For now though, this should be League's job to lose, no matter Aardsma's status. For all we know, he might never lose it.