Lost in last night’s epic performance from Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is the fact that manager Don Mattingly chose to go with Kenley Jansen and not closer Brandon League in a save situation.
After a two-out single from Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, Mattingly went to Jansen after publicly giving League a vote of confidence as the Dodgers closer. Mattingly wasn’t very forthcoming in his post-game comments, thus igniting a closer controversy when he spoke to Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times:
The simple question was, is Jansen now the closer?
“Honestly, I prefer having roles where everybody knows where they’re at. But tonight I felt like Kenley was the best shot of getting that guy out.”
League signed a three-year $21 million contract in the offseason and it was presumed that he would fill the closer’s role. While he’s saved eight of nine games, League has allowed at least one run in six of his last seven outings.
Meanwhile, Jansen has been the Dodgers eighth inning reliever this season and has done a great job getting the ball to League. Jansen has a 2.25 ERA, but more impressively he has a 28:5 KK/BB ratio and his fastball is one of the best in baseball.
It’s clear that Mattingly feels the pressure, why else would he go to Jansen over League? Dodger fans and myself included have believed all along that Jansen is right for the closer’s job.
The League contract from the outset didn’t make sense and having a set-up man make $7 million per season would be absolutely ridiculous.
When he came over from the Mariners midseason, League had a 2.30 ERA and nailed down six saves, but his performance didn’t warrant the contract when Jansen was the obvious choice as closer.
If a save situation presents itself tonight it will be interesting to see what Mattingly does and let’s hope he makes the right call and goes to Jansen.