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Dodgers and Kenley Jansen Appear Divided over Pitch Selection

Kenley Jansen and the organization seem to not be on the same page

Dodgers
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 21: Austin Barnes #15 and Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after beating the Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 at Miller Park on April 21, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Everyone in the league knows that Kenley Jansen’s bread and butter is the cutter. He has made a living on being able to throw that pitch effectively and supposedly is not too thrilled about the Dodgers trying to manipulate that.

As recently as last year, Jansen has begun to throw his slider more often as an out pitch or two-strike pitch and has seen decent results. By throwing the cutter so much, hitters have been able to know what is coming and due to a loss in actual cut on his cutter, it has become easier to hit.

The slider has the ability to give a second above-average option to Jansen’s arsenal and he is not on board with it.

On Tuesday night against the Padres, a short exchange laced with expletives from Austin Barnes to Kenley Jansen was captured in short by the Dodgers broadcast.

Pedro Moura of The Athletic outlined the Tuesday exchange here.

Barnes briefly thrust up his arms in apparent frustration, then made another signal. After a few more seconds, Jansen threw a 93-mph cutter far inside. Barnes threw him back the ball and muttered, again in apparent frustration.

After his 14th save on Wednesday, Jansen even made a comment about the fact that the cutter is what got him to the big leagues and that he basically refuses to deviate from it.

[I’ll] Continue to use my pitch that got me here in the big leagues — keeps me here in the big leagues. And know when to use my slider — I’ll stick with my best pitch.

Orel Hershiser even took note of Jansen’s recent battle with the scouting report in the broadcast booth:

I think Russell Martin is calling the pitches that the scouting report calls for. I think Kenley Jansen is saying, ‘My ego is bigger than that pitch selection. Here we go.’

After the game, manager Dave Roberts was asked about Kenley’s recent issues with pitch selection. He had this to say.

Kenley obviously knows what he wants to do. He can be stubborn at times, he can be convicted as times. We’ve got to work things out as far as what we’re trying to do to get Kenley and the catchers on the same page.

Kenley Jansen has never really given the Dodgers organization issues with his attitude as far as we know, but this is not ideal for either side, for management or the players involved.

There is a reason Kenley Jansen has a 3.98 ERA this season, as opposed to his career mark of 2.26. The idea that Jansen could be pitching on his own agenda could be a huge part of the reason.

Something else that is important to note with this development is that Kenley Jansen has a player opt-out in his contract at the end of the season. If Jansen grows tired of the organization’s agenda, he could easily walk away from $18 million in 2020 with the Dodgers and close games for another organization.

This is obviously not an ideal situation and is definitely one to monitor over the coming weeks. Pitch selection is one of the prominent components of success and although Kenley Jansen has been one of the best closers in the history of baseball, he is in decline velocity-wise and even with the overall cut on his cutter. He may need to increase his slider usage to remain successful and to keep hitters off balance.

Only time will tell.

Written by Daniel Preciado

My name is Daniel Preciado and I am 18 years old. I am a sophomore Sport Analytics major and Cognitive Science and Economics dual minor at Syracuse University. When I am not in New York, I live in Whittier, California --- not too far from Chavez Ravine. I am pretty old-school for being an analytics guy and I will always embrace debate. Also, Chase Utley did absolutely nothing wrong.

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  1. We’ll see when this blows up in his face come October on a night where his cutter is flat and he refuses to mix things up. I pondered whether he was stubborn and felt he was too good to be coached or if the FO and coaching weren’t doing their jobs. Turns out it was Jansen being stubborn and egotistical. The Dodgers indeed took my advice on mixing up the pitch selection with him but Jansen refused. He got away with it this time because the cutter was sharp but on bad nights he’s going to have to change or die with the flat cutter.

  2. Good if he wants to leave(opt-out of his contract, good riddance. I saw that exchange between Martin and Jansen shaking him off. He is No longer that elite closer.

  3. Yes, with his effectiveness sliding downward, we may be happy if he opts out. The Dodgers really should sign Craig Kimbrel because we need another option at the back-end of the bullpen, it will potentially force Jansen to be more flexible or make him decide to opt out because it’s all about Kenley. It also provides us insurance regardless of what Jansen decides

  4. I agree with Scuba Steve : it might not be the worst idea to sign Kimbrell. It would strengthen our BP, and provide insurance in case KJ decides to leave at season’s end. Go Blue!!!

  5. Everyone who wants the Dodgers to sign Kimbrel need to ask themselves “Why don’t the clubs that know him the best want him?” He may or may have been an elite closer, but his ego makes Jansen look like Bambi. Also, if you look throughout the league over the years, free agent pitchers have been less than stellar as a rule.

  6. Time to sign Kimbrel.
    Kershaw is not dominant Kershaw and Jansen is not dominant Jansen. Both are still good and needed but we need to be real here. If we had signed Verlander we’d have won the world series. If we had kept Chapman and not worried about Kenley’s ego 2 years ago who knows.
    In essense we all know it was Kershaw’s inability to be Bumgardner like or Hershiser like as well as Jansen blowing saves in the world series. if their declining now who are we kidding. We all know Houston and Boston could hit but we need a dominant closer. I hope RYU and Buehler will be lock down come playoffs but still not sure about Jansen. Will Urias be the answer? Gonsolin and May are the future but let’s get things settled now. Can’t lose Kimbrel to our rival teams like Cubs, Brewers or whoever.
    Hey after 5 years I think Baez has actually become a legitimate reliever. Long season will see.

  7. Surprised that all of the above comments are against Jansen after what he has done for his team. Sign Kimbrel if you choose, but don’t expect him to be as good as he was either.

  8. OK folks, let’s look at perhaps why Dodgers and some of us fans just may be concerned as far as KJ is concerned:
    In 2016 and 2017 combined….Jansen pitched in 137 innings and allowed a TOTAL of 9 HR’s
    In 2018, he allowed 13 HR’s in 71.2 innings
    So far in 2019, he has pitched in 20.1 innings allowing 4 HR’s so far.
    Yes he has saved some games along the way, but when it mattered the most in the PS and WS he didn’t perform well ….end of story.

  9. Things will take of themselves………they always do………if people speculate that Kenley may leave it’s just noise. He loves being a Dodger. If they (the Dodgers) dictate what he throws and he resists them i don’t think that’s a big deal. It would not be the first time someone had their own opine. I think this is alot about nothing. Kenley has always been stubborn…….it is magnified this year because he no longer has that dominance he used to have. More and more people have begun to question his results and he’s getting sensitive about it.

  10. Bluz1st, hello there first of all. This season still has a long ways to go and KJ could indeed settle in. But as i said and I am not the only one who has brought this up ( heard talk during games too) , but the long ball has been of concern. But in any event it’s KJ’s decision whether to opt out or not and of course a lot will depend on how he finishes up the year and what his performance is like in the PS and WS should the team get that far.

  11. Paul……..Mark Prior Dodgers pitching coach quote excerpt………….”changing locations, changing planes or his height,” Prior said. “Everybody knows what he’s going to throw. They’re kind of looking in one direction. They kind of know what the ball’s going to do. I think he’s gotten caught living in one area a bit little too long against guys who know what’s coming.”………..

    I have been saying this one for a while now…….I’d noticed that he was always throwing at the top of the strike zone these days……..who decides that location choice I do not know…….but three to four years ago he threw at the bottom of the zone a lot more….methinks his cutter flattens more the higher he tries to put it……then add in he throws the cutter too much…….the two sides are probably getting stuck because the Dodgers coaches/catchers want him to use his slider and two seam fastball more often and he is reluctant to do it. Just my theory but it has teeth.

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