Kenley Jansen had his first subpar performance in the month of May. The heavily scrutinized Dodgers closer allowed his first earned run(s) since April 26th in Friday’s extra-inning affair against the San Francisco Giants.
Despite giving up two earned and losing the game, Jansen still ranks as one of the top closers for the month of May. Through Friday, he’s tied for second in Saves (7).
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 28, 2021
Jansen owns a sparkling 1.50 ERA for the month of May and his 1.00 WHIP isn’t much to quibble about. During that same period, opponents are hitting just .108 against Jansen. His four hits allowed for the month of May are the second-fewest of his career.
Yes, the strikeout rate (10.9 K/9) remains low. In fact, it ranks second to last in his 12-year career with the Dodgers. However, Jansen is still finding a way to get outs and close games. Most importantly, he’s keeping the ball in the yard.
This isn’t an article trumpeting the return of Kenley as the league’s best closer. Rather, a nod to a Dodgers veteran who’s adjusted his approach to improve his results.
But, there are a few statistics that point to Jansen’s getting a little lucky on balls put in play.
Jansen Feeling Lucky
Of the top 12 closers by saves for May, Jansen has the second-lowest BABIP (.172). Considering league average is about .300, the stat suggests that, over time, balls hit off of Jansen should start turning into hits and not outs more often.
Jansen’s expected ERA (xERA) of 2.79 and fielding independent pitching (FIP) of 2.78 both signal how fortunate he’s been in May. That being said, if he can keep limiting the long-ball, he can still continue to suppress runs as his BABIP and ERA regress to the mean.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will keep managing Kenley’s workload carefully. Friday was Jansen’s first time in pitching back-to-back games since the first week of May. It was an experiment that proved, once again, that Jansen is at his best with a little rest.
One poor outing shouldn’t overshadow an excellent month for the Dodgers closer.