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Dodgers: It May Be Joe Kelly’s Time to Close While Jansen Gets Right

Here we are again.

Dodgers
MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 15: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 15, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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:

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.

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.

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.

Written by Clint Pasillas

Clint is the lead editor of Dodgers Nation, and a host and analyst on Dodgers Nation's own Blue Heaven podcast live stream.

He's been writing, blogging, and podcasting Dodgers since about 2008. He was there for Nomar, Greg Maddux, and Blake DeWitt, and he'll be there for Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Dustin May, and any Dodgers of the future.

He's also a sandwich enthusiast, a consummate athlete, and a friend.

34 Comments

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  1. ‘DODGERS RELEASE KENLEY ‘, HE DOESN’t HAVE IT !!!!! THE HITTERS KNOW WHATS COMING!!!!’ HE iS NOT GOING TO FOOL THE HITTERS , THERE STRONGER AND QUICKER WITH BAT SPEED, HE WILL NEVER BE A FINESSE PITCHER .THE STARTERS WORK SO HARD ( 7 PLUS INNINGS ) AND JANSEN COMES IN TO BLOW. iT. SO LONG

    • Hmm, this the guy that was compared to Mariano Rivera until July last year? Dump him? No. Change roles. Work him in low leverage spots. Figure it out! Kenley still has a good fastball and a really good slider. He needs a change of scenery in LA. Bring him in with a big lead. Bring him in earlier for one or two batters in low leverage spots. Or the lower third of the lineup in the seventh. The guy had a HOF stretch for FIVE years!

      • LOL! Who the heck would compare him to Mariano. You were joking right? Anyhow the smart thing to do is keep him off of high leverage situations, he needs that.

  2. He is total has been. His heart problem has caused major issues. Get Kelly and Sadler in there. NOW! Sign Ryu to 3 year max at $60 mill. He is still s gamble. Look at Hill!

  3. Kelly has good stuff…….that’s why they signed him…….but Kelly lacks the control to be a closer………he will walk hitters at a crucial moments………giving teams free passes/base runners is not a quality you want in a closer.

    • Would you rather have a guy that serves up bombs on a silver platter? Even when he escapes with the win he hardly ever has a clean inning. Personally I would much rather see Joe Kelly as the closer. He had a rough start to the season but at least he throws gas and has movement on the ball. Kenley has a top speed of 93 and only throws one pitch, his patented “meatball”.

  4. roberts is a softy when it comes to kenley. jansen has a 4.50 era in august. when clayton lost speed, he became pinpoint. that’s how you adapt. kenley is stubborn and won’t change. he’s still serving up the same cutter down the middle. the time has come to quit dancing around kenley’s feelings. demote jansen to low leverage situations and make him earn the closer role.

    • I totally agree with you, Randal. It really shows now that Kenley does not have THAT command of his cutter anymore. He needs to do the same work that Kelly is been doing lately and the switch has to be done. I just hope that Jansen does recover in time for the playoffs otherwise the Dodgers are in big trouble. Fortunately they have the best offense in baseball.

      • Exactly like tonight he plays Pederson Martin and the pitchers spot. 3 automatic outs. Meanwhile Beaty is killing it nowhere to be found. You can’t have 3 under 240 hitters in the same lineup at the same time. If you want to add KIKI except for his winning blooper that’s 4 under 240 and CT rides the pine.

  5. KJS fastball and cutter are the same. He obviously has lost his confidence as his cutter isn’t cutting and his fastball is slower. Try Kelly, Gonsolin or Sadler. He can’t keep blowing saves as he will hurt us big time in the playoffs.

  6. I was at the game last night which is a big deal to me since I live so far from LA. When Kenley came in I thought “oh boy, here we go.”
    I used to think he needed to get his confidence back but I now think he’s just done. I like the guy a lot but he doesn’t have it anymore and it’s hurting everyone that loves the Dodgers.

    • What’s actually hurting the Dodgers IMHO, Ron, is Roberts insistence and stubbornness about keeping KJ as the closer and not trying what has been suggested here. I just could not believe he gave up yet another HR and had yet another blown save last night. . And as far as Vic’s comment on Dodgers having the best offense in baseball, well IDK for sure but what we all do know is that ‘slugging’, the way Dodgers win a great majority of their games won’t be as easy if at all come the PS. We will be facing much better pitching when that time comes so my suggestion is to somehow get this BP situation with KJ right at this time and NOT have this ruin yet another shot at a WS ring.

      • Robert waited waaaaay too long to bench AGon also. He likes to be pals with the players and have them like him.

  7. Maybe it’s time to think out of the box. Ryu has the best quality that a reliever can have. Ryu is able to roll out of bed and immediately be able to throw strikes. He didn’t require any minor league “tune-up” after coming off of the IL. If May or Gonsolin can impress against the Yankees this weekend, maybe Ryu can be our closer for the entire post season. I’d like to see Gonsolin audition as well, but please, demote Kenley for the post season. Maybe, if Kenley can develop another pitch, he can salvage his closer role going forward.

    • I’m sure Ryu would be a great closer – problem is he is our best starter. You don’t need a closer if your team is losing the game coming into the 9th inning because you started , let’s say Maeda instead of Ryu. Ryu WAY is too valuable as a starter to use as a closer. They are going to have to experiment with someone, maybe May/Gonsolin/Urias (after suspension over). But our real fear is this – they aren’t going to do anything different, which up to now is the approach they have continued to take.

      • Exactly right on, bluz1st. Roberts has said he is sticking with KJ as our ‘closer’. Unfortunately it may, and I say may cost the Dodgers a chance to even reach another WS. But IIWII. Obviously, dodger offense has to be better in the PS than it has been peviously and the rest of the pitching staff has to limit giving up HR’s

        • AZUL, I agree with your point about KJ. Sooner or later, the other players will lose confidence in his ability to retire the opposition without giving up at least one home run. At present, I am anxious to see how Kelly does the rest of the season, along with Baez. Of course, from what I have read, Urias, Hill, and Maeda may still be added to the BP mix. A 2-1 victory over the lowly Jays is troubling on a few different levels. Hopefully, this weekend series with the Yanks will answer a few questions for us. Stay well!!! Give PD Jr. my very best. Go Blue!!

  8. Kenley needs to be a 7th or 8th inning set up guy. Days of being a closer have passed him by. Kelly should be the new closer. It may be sad to say, but I trust Baez in a closer’s role more than Jansen.

  9. Regardless of Kenley’s performance, I just hate to hear the fans boo their own players. I think it is tacky. How does that help his confidence?

    • Jansen lost my respect when he mentioned the threat of a strike earlier in the year. If he is going to start talking “strike” then fans can demand he pitch better.

    • The arrogant & dim Hansen makes around $20,000,000 per year, so sorry, no sympathy for him.
      Roberts just needs to stop letting him blow it for an otherwise truly great Dodger team.

  10. Hate to say it but the idea that Kenleyfornia will “get right” is wishful thinking. The dude has absolutely LOST IT. He couldn’t hit 94 on the gun if his life depended on it and the one pitch he throws has no movement. I’m well aware of what he has meant to the team the last few years but it’s time to move on. You can’t win a World Series with a closer serving it up right down the pipe at 92

  11. Professional sports are a hard business to be an with the great perks aka salary among several benefits, come pressure to perform.

    Just like and hard to say this as a Dodger fan/homer, I wouldn’t vote for Bellinger as MVP, much less best Dodger…Muncy has my vote due his season long consistency and hitting in the clutch.

    Kenley is at best a set up bridge reliever, not very dependable and behind Kelly and Baez as a Closer Candidate.

  12. No sympathy it’s time for KJ to Start packing his bags, nothing but dead weight for the Dodgers.

  13. “Kenley blew his 2nd consecutive save opportunity ( he had 3 scoreless, non-save outings in between”

    Looks like he is now more comfortable in not-so high leverage situations.

  14. Why prevaricate. Jensen no longer has the stuff for a closer. Kelly is the dodgers best hope for a lock down closer. It’s a no brainer

  15. Like many Dodgers fans, I like and appreciate Kenley. So, it pains me to say it, but I no longer have enough confidence in Kenley as our closer. I do think he can “get right” enough to be effective in the 7th or 8th (in a low leverage situation.) But putting him out there when the stakes are high….and will get even higher post-season….seems cruel. And although I understand the frustration, I do not like hearing any Dodgers’ player being booed by Dodgers fans. But the sad fact of the matter is that Dave Roberts needs to stop minimizing and Kenley is going to have to come to terms with a changed role that appears imminent.

    • Hey Barb!

      I feel your pain!

      I also hated listening to Kenley get booed the other night. But I think the Dodgers brass should have sent him down to OKC to work on his problems weeks ago. It’s embarrassing to send him out there now……..it’s like watching someone drown AND throwing them a brick. He cannot control base runners on 1st. He cannot throw his cutter by people effectively any longer. And then watching him try to reinvent himself on the fly in crucial game situations is painful. Well, I guess painful to those of us who care about him……

      Here is a quote from Dave Roberts after the game:
      “……if there needs to be a conversation at the end of the year if things don’t (change), then there should be a conversation and then I will have to make a decision. But right now I’m not ready to even entertain it.”………

      So everyone ranting and crying is not going to change a thing…….Dave does not intend to do anything about Kenley until the season is over.

  16. “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.”

    Complete nonsense. The facts prove the exact opposite. Why would anyone make such an irrational statement? The record of Jansen’s failures are lengthy, they do not lie. He does not have what it takes.

    Jansen will cost LA the 2019 title if the dim Dave Roberts keeps trotting him out there.

  17. It isn’t just about Kenley’s confidence his issue is he is a 2 trick pony which worked for a long time, while those pitches actually had something on them, and at the major league level he has no movement and lack of velocity and control, it’s now become nothing more then bp for hitters, I always think about Kenley in the fact he never really developed into a true pitcher after being converted from a catcher, he never really developed more pitches it was bound to catch up to him, he was great for a good amount of time, i think his stubbornness/ego never allowed him to develop into something better, and he is still fighting that stubbornness/ego now, most great ballplayers for the benifit of the team will admit and take or request that step back or down when they know they aren’t helping but hurting their teams chance of winning, this all lands on Kenley, but i do appreciate what he has given us prior and never take that away from him.

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