Kenley Jansen had the worst regular season appearance of his career in Saturday’s meltdown loss against the Houston Asterisks. Four earned runs, five hits, and a well earned “L” punctuated an epically awful performance by the veteran closer.
Dodger fans, wrought with anger and justifiable frustration, did what any fanbase does in 2020 – they took to Twitter.
— Blue Heaven (A Dodgers Podcast) (@BlueHeavenPod) September 13, 2020
Really Jansen? pic.twitter.com/MrDtV6g4GP
— Luis Fajardo (@LuisAngel2408) September 13, 2020
— alfonso lanzagorta (@Alfonsolanzagor) September 15, 2020
Jansen hasn’t passed the eye test this season despite racking up saves. Where does he stand statistically amongst the six other closers with double digit saves?
- Brand Hand (CLE) – 12
- Liam Hendriks (OAK) – 12
- Kenley Jansen (LA) – 11
- Alex Colome (CHW) – 11
- Mark Melancon (ATL) – 10
- Trevor Rosenthal (SD) – 10
- Ryan Pressly (HOU) – 10
For just a moment, let’s remove the subjectivity of emotion and let the numbers, not the hoards of furiously typing thumbs, do the talking.
Note: All statistics current as of 8:00AM PST 9/16/20
Walks Hits Innings Pitched (1.28 – 6th)
Free passes are poison to a closer. For his career, Kenley’s 4.0 BB/9 this season ranks only behind his 2011 rookie season (4.4). Kenley’s inability to find the zone at times has ballooned his WHIP to the worst mark amongst saves leaders. For those of you that prefer counting stats over rate stats: Kenley has over half of his 2019 walk total in about a third of the amount of games played in 2020.
- 2019: 16 walks (62 Games)
- 2020: 9 walks (23 Games)
Strikeouts (28 – 3rd)
Strikeouts are one of the long bright spots of Jansen’s 2020. Amongst top closers by saves, he only trails Oakland’s Liam Hendriks (30) and San Diego’s Trevor Rosenthal (29) in punch outs. In fact, including 2020, this is Jansen’s best strikeout rate (31.5%) of the last three seasons. He ranks ahead of both Chicago’s Alex Colome (19.0%) and Atlanta’s Mark Melancon (14.7%).
Barrel % (4.3% – 2nd)
Kenley trails only Alex Colome (3.6%) in limiting barreled balls by opposing hitters. Saturday night’s debacle didn’t feature a back-breaking home run in the ninth, but rather, a deluge of bloop singles with one lone extra base hit by Josh #@#$*! Reddick. Death by a thousand paper cuts.
Therein lies a key problem with Kenley this season – he walks too many batters and leaves too many hittable, not crushable, pitches in the zone. For teams even with just average base runners, a walk plus a single equals runners on first and third. A single with a man on second is a run.
Exit Velocity (82.9 MPH – 1st)
Another indication that Jansen, for the most part, has avoided hard contact – the next lowest EV belongs to Cleveland’s Brad Hand (86.7). This doesn’t mean that Jansen 2017 is back, but it does mean he still has the ability to pitch effectively at times.
Earned Run Average (3.54 – 6th)
Perhaps the most telling stat of all – Jansen ranks second to last among other saves leaders in ERA. After cruising through July and August (2 ER in 14.2 IP), Jansen struggled with the hapless Arizona Diamondbacks (2 ER in 1.1 IP) by almost coughing up a four run lead in extra innings. Jansen owns a disconcerting 9.53 ERA in the month of September.
Make no mistake, this isn’t an endorsement of locking Jansen in as the closer regardless of future performance nor a call to rip him from the role immediately.
Much like his stats, he’s had his peaks and valleys this season.