When one thinks of a closer, pitchers such as Arolids Chapman and Kenley Jansen come to mind; thick, strong, and powerful. However, what is often hidden from the fan’s perspective is the mentality of closing a game and the mindset a pitcher must have with the game on the line.
After transitioning from catcher to relief pitcher, Jansen has been a full-time closer for the Dodgers over the past two and a half seasons. He’s racked up 97 saves, good for fifth on the Dodgers’ all-time saves lists, and a 2.19 ERA over those seasons.
While Jansen asserts himself with a strong fastball and cutter, he discussed his mentality and gave credit to the relievers that take the mound before him, via Bill Plunkett of the OC Register:
You just pitch. That’s how you start to (confuse) yourself,” Jansen said. “If you’re going to start thinking about eighth or ninth or whatever, you’re going to mess yourself up. Let me tell you something – guys come in the sixth, seventh inning with guys on base, game on the line. That’s harder than what I have to do, going out there with a clean (ninth) inning. Sometimes they (deserve) the save because I get a clean inning.”
In his career with runners on base, Jansen averages 3.45 walks per nine innings, almost two full walks above his walks per nine when there are no runners on base.
While the right-hander shares this mentality with many other pitchers, not everyone agrees with it. David Aardsma, who closed for the Seattle Mariners for two seasons, racking up 69 saves, believes this situation is completely different:
You can’t mentally make it different. But it is different. You’re the guy. You’re the one who, in their eyes at that time, is their best option.
Whether it be the first or the ninth inning, pitching in the Majors is difficult. It is more than just throwing the ball towards the plate. Insight from Aardsma and Jansen is a reminder of the whole other side to the game that is often unseen or forgotten.
Sergio Santos Open To Closing For The Dodgers