Look, any way you approach this, it’s an uncomfortable topic. For me… for all fans… for the Dodgers… nevertheless, here we are.
On Wednesday night, Kenley Jansen made his 48th appearance of the 2019 campaign. In 48.2 innings pitched, he has a career high 3.70 ERA, and is one blown save shy of tying his career high of 7 set back in 2012. That season was incidentally his first as the Dodgers primary closer.
The long time dominant force has gone from giving fans that confident, game over feeling, to becoming the biggest concern for the best ball club in baseball.
As we sit with with 34 games left in the regular season — a season where the Dodgers have their 7th consecutive division title all but locked up — there presents some opportunity for the front office to try and assemble the best team they possibly can ahead of the postseason.
And I’m not talking about the experimenting kind of opportunities that we’ve seen in 2019.
It’s a Long Season
I’m sure most would have struggled early in the season with reading what I’m about to type, but here we are…
It may be time for Joe Kelly to start getting some looks in the 9th inning.
Yes, baseball is wild — very wild. Kelly, the guy that had an ERA over 8 by the end of May — the guy that social media types were begging the front office to DFA — is now a guy that instills confidence into the fanbase as he enters a ball game. As he recorded his 9th consecutive scoreless appearance on Wednesday, and Kenley blew his 2nd consecutive save opportunity (he had 3 scoreless, non-save outings in between), you kind of have to feel like a role reversal might be in order.
I show my work on Twitter:
Since June 1st…
Joe Kelly has an ERA of 1.48 (24.1 IP; 36 Ks & 9 BB).
Kenley Jansen's ERA is 4.13 (24 IP; 28 Ks & 6 BB).
Kelly 1 HR, Jansen 4 HR.
I think we've hit a point where it's only sort of fair to give JK some opportunities in the 9th. Let KJ gain confidence again.
— Clint Pasillas (FRG) (@realFRG) August 22, 2019
So that’s where this is going, that statement above, “I think we’ve hit a point where it’s only sort of fair to give Joe Kelly some opportunities in the 9th and let Kenley Jansen gain confidence again.
It’s a long way to the top…
Kelly’s recent dominance didn’t come without hard work and, more importantly, time to get right. For the better part of two months, Kelly pitched in mostly low leverage situations as he worked on his mechanics and confidence.
On the evening of August 21st, the franchise leader in saves was booed off the field by some (many) in attendance at Dodger Stadium.
Kenley Jansen yelled into his glove while the final out was being recorded. He returned to the dugout to a noticeable chorus of boos.
— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) August 22, 2019
On the morning of August 22, I can’t speak for the guy directly, but I can only assume that Kenley Jansen’s confidence is near an all time low.
#Dodgers Kenley Jansen did not make himself available to the media before we were told to leave the clubhouse
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) August 22, 2019
You do feel for the guy as he given his all for the organization over his 10-year career, but at this point it feels almost unfair to him to keep running him out there when he’s not at his best. Moreover, it also feels unfair to not reward a guy like Joe Kelly that has checked off all the boxes for close to half of the season.
This move, however, would be more about Jansen regaining the confidence in his stuff than Kelly earning closing time.
In a little more than 34 days, the Dodgers will be preparing to embark on their latest attempt to bring a World Series title back to Los Angeles. The club’s best chance at securing that title lies with Kenley Jansen on the mound in the 9th inning of the deciding ballgame in October. But to get there, not only do the Dodgers have a lot of work to do, Kenley has a lot of work to do. And he deserves the opportunity to put in the work in the right environment.