It’s safe to say that Kenley Jansen hasn’t had the season he envisioned for the Dodgers in 2019. Coming off a down year in 2018, the hope was set for a big rebound, especially after a heart procedure, and weight loss of 25 pounds in the off-season.
As we flash forward to the second week of August, it has been very up and down for Kenley so far. His 3.74 ERA is a career high by more than half a run. His 5 blown saves are as many as he had in 2017 and 2018 combined.
After seemingly getting on track in June (2.70 ERA in 10 IP), in July and August, Jansen has a 5.73 ERA in 11 innings pitched. In that span, he has only 3 clean outings (no base runners). Moreover, only 15 of his 45 appearances in 2019 have no runners reached base.
THE KENLEY JANSEN EXPERIENCE.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) August 11, 2019
Kenley came out on Saturday saying the more he throws, the more consistent he’ll get. That came on the heels of Friday’s blown save where his manager said “his ball didn’t have any life to it.”
While he did come in on Saturday and shut the door — albeit after allowing a hit — for his first back-to-back appearances since June 22-23, this season hasn’t proven to be kind to the Dodgers’ closer when throwing on no rest.
However, it left the big man hungry for more.
Everything tonight was so much better. You guys can watch it, the cutter feels so much better today than yesterday. My direction was better, the ball was coming out so much easier. The one thing hurting me is not hitting my spots like I used to.
Location, Location, Location
Not hitting his spots has been a big issue over the last two seasons. As we highlighted here, Kenley’s location% has deteriorated in 2019.
Jansen’s Location% has declined from a high of 99 in 2017, to 80 in 2018, to a career worst 67 in 2019. His Velocity% fell from 89 and 88 in 2017 and 2018 respectively, to 78 in 2019.
Leg issues that afflicted him in spring training of 2018 have been an unofficial contributor to bad delivery habits ever since. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts added his thoughts on Jansen’s delivery.
The last couple years have probably been the most difficult for him as far as maintaining the delivery and consistency. He’s not afraid to put the effort in to work on it and that’s what we’re betting on. In the early part of his career, he just overpowered the league. And there was some unfamiliarity there. Now, you’ve got to continue to evolve. That’s what players have to do.
Before Saturday’s contest, Jansen threw a 10-pitch bullpen session under the watchful eye of pitching coach Rick Honeycutt that appeared to pay off immediately. As Kenley mentioned above, “us guys” did watch his outing, and the movement was crisp, even as his location escaped him from time to time. And while he recorded no strikeouts, and the outs were loud, they were still outs nonetheless.
43 games remain for the Dodgers as they march toward their seventh consecutive division title. The magic number sits at 27 games. Kenley Jansen will be afforded every opportunity to get right.
Dave Roberts said it best here, “I know for us to win 11 games in October, we need him.”