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.
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) May 16, 2019
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.
— Brian (@bramir25) May 15, 2019
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.