The length of a baseball season is not something to underestimate. A 162-game schedule leaves many players either exhausted or injured during some point in the season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers learned this lesson first hand and suffered crucial injuries throughout the season. However, one player managed to remain healthy and exerted his dominance in the National League.
Kenley Jansen came into this season on a mission and delivered the numbers needed to validate himself as an elite closer. The 27-year-old put amassed 44 saves with a 2.76 ERA, and 101 strikeouts in 68 appearances last season. The converted catcher only blew five saves all season and drew comparisons to the legend Mariano Rivera for his deadly cut fastball.
Jansen’s 44 saves were tied for third in the NL and his 1.91 FIP was only slightly higher than Craig Kimbrel’s 1.83 FIP, who led the League in saves. Jansen finished with a higher WHIP and lower strikeout-to-walk ratio than his 2013 totals, but some of that can be attributed to his being a closer from the outset in 2014.
Jansen’s road to becoming a pitcher isn’t a conventional one. He began his Dodger career as a catcher and needed to be convinced to try his hand at a new position. Jansen filled a void for the Dodgers in 2013 when Brandon League struggled and built on his success last season.
In just his fifth year with the Dodgers and first as the full-time closer, Jansen earned his 100th career save against the Arizona Diamondbacks in August and is currently fifth on the Dodgers’ All-Time saves leaders list with 106.
Throughout the playoffs, the Dodgers’ bullpen was questioned over and over again, but Jansen was not included in that. When the bullpen managed to get the ball to the Dodgers’ closer, he delivered more times than not.
Jansen is again eligible for arbitration, which he and the Dodgers avoided in 2013 when he signed a one-year, $4.3 million contract. MLBTradeRumors.com projected his 2015 salary via arbitration to creep just over $8 million.
Jansen can become a free agent in 2017 and given the success he’s had for the Dodgers, he’ll likely be a priority to re-sign.