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Dodgers News: Kenley Jansen’s First Blown Save of 2021 Sparks Closer Debate

Kenley has fans in a tizzy.



Just 7 games into the season and the great closer debate is back among Dodgers fans. And perhaps rightfully so after Kenley Jansen blew his first save of the season in Oakland on Wednesday afternoon.

Kenley came in protecting a 1-run lead and got himself into trouble. After a leadoff single, he walked the runner over to second base. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners over and Matt Chapman scored on a sacrifice fly. The Dodgers and A’s went to extras as a result. 

To be fair, the blame isn’t entirely on Kenley. Dodgers fans know better than anyone that he should not be used on back-to-back days, and Doc went with him again on Wednesday. That’s just one day after he didn’t look very sharp in locking down a save the night before. 

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The Dodgers offense also did not come through most of the game. They left 13 runners on base in the first 9 innings alone and couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position. Still, it’s hard to ignore it when Kenley doesn’t perform. 

The biggest question seems to be when Dave Roberts will pivot away from the traditional closer role. Kenley can still be very good but probably doesn’t need to be slotted into every save opportunity. There are simply too many good arms in the Dodgers bullpen to justify that sort of stress. 

You can bet this will be heated debate throughout the course of the season as Jansen plays the final year of his contract with the Dodgers. 

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Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. First of all a closer that can’t go back to back isn’t a closer. But Kenley is just rounding into playoff form. Dodgers need him to blow some saves in post season so he’s right on track.

    • Tim, that sounds logical.. Yeah, Like Jansen is going to “come around” at the end of the year..

      The good news is the Dodgers are open to trades for Jansen now.. They are looking for a Bullpen cart, it doesn’t need to Run or even Start, because neither does Jansen.

      They will also trade Jansen for a working chalk machine. The Dodgers feel that is a fair trade, because a chalk machine makes lines that are perfectly straight, you know, just like Jansen’s “cutter”.

      If interested, please call 800-NO-SAVES

  2. When are the Dodgers going to realize Jansen needs to be replaced. Roberts is not very smart. They won last year in spite of him. Get a manager who knows how to handle pitchers. Don’t ever use Jansen on back to back games. Get a clue if you want win again this year. Get a closer.

    • Harlan,

      I totally agree with each of your statements.

      The Dodgers have performed well in recent years despite having a manager who consistently mismanages his bullpen.

      Who in the Dodger organization is protecting Roberts, and what is their motivation for doing so?

  3. Third, not to panic there are plenty of good arms available to put together a great bullpen as the season goes along and we get into playoffs. Dodgers bullpen always seems to suck early in season

  4. Don’t be so hard on Roberts. The Dodgers only have a couple of pitchers, and tomorrow is an off day, and Jannsen is paid a lot of money, and he was so good Tuesday night, so why not have him pitch two days in a row?

    • Because his best days are behind him? He’s old for a closer? He doesn’t have the “stuff” he had 5 years ago? His blown saves are quickly beginning to be more prevalent than his saves? He just stinks as a closer now? Fans cringe and opponents grin when he comes into the game.

      I can go on. I’m sure anybody not named Roberts can see the truth that Jansen is done as a closer. What the Dodger GM needs to do is save Roberts from himself and trade Jansen.

  5. I’ll disagree. I watch Kenley walk the tying run to second. This one is on him, no matter how many runners were left on base. We wasted a good start by Bauer and lost to team we should have beaten. Because we have a “closer” who can’t pitch on consecutive days? How about a “closer” who can no longer hold the fort in one run games?

  6. Nelson, with a 13.5 ERA, bears blame for the loss as well.

    Might be time to send him to the minors before he loses more games.

  7. Was this a shock? Dave, stop playing around…leave a reliever in. Gonzalez threw TWO PITCHES!

  8. “I AM DONE WITH JANSEN” – ROBERTS is a FOOL to think his is still his Prime-
    IT’S TIME for Someone else TO CLOSE OUT GAMES!!!

  9. LOL! Jansen,,,WHAT A JOKE! Should have dumped the guy. Good things happen when you get rid of dead weight like they did with Hernandez batting 133 and Joc hitting .000. Replacing them with McKinstry and giving Lux his due. They have Kneble and Trenian so give me a break dump Jansen.

  10. Well, Yes and no. If Jansen has done the job he’s being paid for Nelson wouldn’t have even gotten into the game.

  11. This loss is in Roberts. Gonzales threw on two pitches to close out the 8th and still had to be fresh. Jensen and Nelson would be still available if Gonzales stumbled

  12. Who’s calling these pitching changes? DR or AF ? Gonzalez could have continued. Nelson isn’t ready yet. Can Price be counted on. When Is Graterol to be ready? There’s an answer out there. It isn’t KJ.

    • Of course it was AF! He and his little computers and nerd team deciding ALL substitutions. Analytics will only take you so far. The player still has to hit. The player still has to catch. The player still has to throw. Gonzalez SHOULD have pitched the 9th as well. But a computer program said Jansen.

      Me thinks the Astros/Asterisks hacked the computers…

  13. Clearly, the Dodgers are in serious need for BP help. Jansen may be “service able” for the season but will not return to consistent dominance. We need someone that strikes fear in the hearts of the opponent when they come in. Can Gonsolin fill the roll?

  14. I pretty much agree that this loss is on Roberts for bringing Jansen in on back to back games, especially with just a 1 run lead and a night game the day before. IMHO Dodgers kind of deserve to lose this game due to:
    2 for 19 with RISP
    Leaving the bases loaded without scoring 3 times
    Struggled against the LHP the A’s brought in
    Playing with a short roster.
    Maybe Bellinger can play Friday but if not, then he needs to go on IL. No more of this waiting around. Obviously however CT3 was ok to be in lineup today.

    • finally a voice of reason. Dodgers lost this game as a team. thinking about the flight home probably

    • Right on! Any decent lefty will shut this team down. To many LOB and God forbid we try some small ball. Everyone is swinging from the heels to be a hero. If we lose the division by one game you can thank Doc for this one! When will he ever learn! Pathetic showing!

  15. From someone who has defended Jansen the last few years I’m Over it. Time to go, same story different season. He got his ring with LA, mission accomplished. Now please go away. He “worked on things all off season”, the results are clear.

    He can figure thing outs on a team like the Marlins, plus it’s closer to his home where hopefully he’ll be spending more time.

  16. To the point Kenly Jansen is NO CLOSER. Better days, a memory, he is a shadow of the past.

    Dodgers could not put the game away when the game was on the line against an inferior, understatement, team. This early in the season, this is a game Dodger must win against weak and inferior teams. Championship team must win these games.

  17. Tired of the excuses by Roberts. Dodgers lost today’s game because Roberts put a reliever in a game who is not a closer
    There is a reason he was demoted in World Series and Urías was used. There is no reason to make Urías a starter with the depth the Dodgers have. Urías could pitch as a closer and easily pitch 2 inng’s back to back days and actually get batters out. Kenley has lost it ….period. If he closes another game this year Dave Roberts is and idiot.
    End of discussion.. No But’s or If …Kenley is a mop up pitcher and that is it. Personally I would cut him.

  18. With a one run lead, as soon as I saw Jansen make his way to the mound I figured the game was lost. Sure enough…

  19. Here we go again Kenley “Unpredictable” Jansen (74) Is back to his old ways Blowing Saves Again!
    If the LA Dodgers want to Win it All in 2021 we need a Real Closer! ASAP!

  20. KJ is the “same old -same old”. He’s been blowing saves consistently since 2017. How many chances are they giving this guy? He just doesn’t have it anymore to close. His demeanor is shot—- no confidence, no command, no movement, no shutdown stuff. Regardless the offense wasn’t hot today we still had the lead in the ninth to win. When KJ cannot get ahead on the count with the first batter, it’s trouble already. That’s been obvious for all these type of games. DR, FA, management must move on!

  21. It’s like the Twilight Zone with Dave Roberts and Kenley Jansen. It’s like a bad dream that happens over and over and over. I’m convinced that Roberts will never get a clue when it comes to Jansen’s proven inability to close games. In fact I don’t think Jansen can reliably pitch at all anymore, in any capacity. His contract runs out this year. Get the other guys closing opportunities to prepare for the off-season as well as next year. Knebel threw some nasty knuckle curves and 97 MPH fastballs today. He’s ready. But nothing gets through to DR, does it? The Dodgers have 5 wins and 1 loss. And Dave Roberts has one loss all by himself by using Jansen as the closer. Every blown save by Jansen is a loss by DR. Even if the Dodgers come back to win the game.

  22. At $54M per year Jansen, Price, Treinen, and Joe Kelly amount to one overpriced, lousy pen. No wonder Roberts is trying to squeeze at least 7 innings out of his starters each start.

  23. another reason the dodgers lost is roberts decided not to play mookie betts for the second time in a week. are the dodger paying him so much money to sit on the bench no

  24. when graterol is ready my suggestion is to use him as the closer he has the stuff throws over 100 mph

  25. Agreed – and Roberts once again using questionable judgement by put Nelson in with the game on the line. Nice guy, but why is Nelson even in the lineup until he can prove what he can do now. This makes 2 losses that he caused for the team. Jansen should be used in middle relief. Cast aside egos, already – for both pitchers – and for the sake of the Dodgers’ Ws and Ls.

  26. It’s not all Roberts and Kenley. The brain trust has had two years to figure it out. Freidman has done a great job with the rest of the team. However, the closer role has not been addressed. Maybe it’s tougher than it appears to fix that situation. I guess that just maybe we (Dodger fans) are somewhat spoiled and expect too much from the front office.

  27. There are some great comments here, let’s set all the ill gestures being made about Dave Roberts and Jansen aside for just a moment. Very few would like to discuss two things… confidence and deep believability. I am die-hard Dodger fan and bleed the blue. I believe a majority of KJ’s issues are confidence and I would challenge his believability in himself that he can still do it. I believe he masks it quite well for the press and with teammates. Just throwing my two cents out there.

    • It doesn’t matter why KJ stinks now. The end result is the same. One blown save after another. It’s nice to be loyal to one ineffective closing pitcher but DR doesn’t seem to understand that he also has a responsibility to the rest of the Dodger organization, to say nothing of all of Dodger nation, which without its support they don’t get money that pays ALL their salaries.

      We love and appreciate KJ for all he’s done for our Dodgers. But’s the time has come to acknowledge that he’s arrived at that point in his career that he’s no longer effective as a closer and maybe as a pitcher in MLB. It’s also time for KJ’s die hard fans to realize this, too.

    • Confidence will not cure cutters that don’t cut, fastballs that aren’t fast, and inability to locate any pitch reliably.

  28. They should use Trienen or Knebel as the closer. Even gonzalez or graterol or maybe even Joe Kelly. Not Jansen. He blew 2 world series games. though in 2018 roberts should not have taken out hill and definently not choose Ryan frickin Madson. The Dodgers should not have let go of Watson. He is a great reiever and closer.

  29. As remarked above, the analytics will only take you so far. The players still have to make the plays. And Jansen can’t do it consistently and more.

    My bigger concern is RISP. The Dodgers are at the bottom of league rankings in RISP every damn year! Once again, analytics. Swing for the fences! Idiots. The Baseball Hall of Fame is made up of mostly guys that hit for average rather than guys that hit homers. With two strikes, choke up and put the frickin ball in play. Swinging for the fences will lead to you ending up last in RISP every single year…..

    • Besides Jansen it was that 2 for 21 with RISP that was the bigger downfall yesterday. But the game was officially a loss after Dodgers had that runner on 2nd to start the 10th inning and FAILED to score. Then we see a far inferior team at least at the start of this year take little to no time at all to score that runner on 2nd in their half of 10th inning.

  30. Look fellas – Kenley isn’t going anywhere; Dodgers won the World Series last year with him, and will win it again this year. as the season progresses Doc will figure out again where to use him – probably not as THE closer. I have NO worries about Kenley and his pitching this year. with a sample size of 1, it may be too early to rule out pitching in back to back games. Dodgers lead the west after a week on the road; won both series. Dodgers are right where they should be. Need a few pitchers back, and that makes the pen even stronger. Enjoy the day off – and Home Opener tomorrow!

    • Did KJ do anything in the playoffs and World Series that really contributed to the Dodger’s becoming World Champions? I seem to remember him blowing saves and ultimately losing his closer role to more competent and effective pitchers.

      KJ may not be going anywhere this year and the Dodgers may be in first place after only 7 games (leading the Padres by only 1 game) but it’s only April and way too early to act smug and declaring the Dodgers will win a 2nd WS. Talk to us in October and share your thoughts about how the Dodgers are the greatest team ever to hit the diamond. A lot of games still need to be played and DR needs to resist making the same mistakes that he made last season.

  31. After a long, great career as a closer, it’s time for Jansen to play a different role (assuming he can’t be traded) and to try Treinen as our closer. If Treinen doesn’t pan out, then try Graterol and if that doesn’t work, we’ll need to trade some prospects for a more reliable closer or suffer the same closer unreliability we endured during the playoffs last year when Jansen had to be shelved in situations he used to dominate. Father Time catches us all, and as the whole world can see, Jansen is no exception…

  32. Sitting in Arlington TX for Game 6 of the World Series I witnessed Roberts actions and he knew he had to go with the strongest chance to win and close out the series with Urias while Kenley was pouting on the rail of the bullpen watching the last out of the game . The question to Dave Roberts and Andrew Friedman is why is game 7 of the season any different? How many more chances and losses do the Dodgers need to endure and waste great starting Pitching (Kershaw, Bauer, Urias, Buehler) to flush it right down the toilet. I am sure Kasten and Friedman are fuming that they must pay Kenley $25 million for blown saves and I am sure the front office wants to make sure that they get their monies worth. I am sorry but it’s time to trade him cut the cost or send him to OKC AAA and let him find his mental game

  33. This was the perfect game to show the value of the closer who needs to:

    closeout the game in the last inning because the offense was lacking in production to
    widen the lead

    keep the opposition off the bases (especially with preventing walks,hit by pitch etc.)

    Kenley failed in both requirements….he’s not a reliable closer.

    Let’s get a closer we can rely on from within or outside of the roster. Amen!

  34. Good News… Thank god, the letter I mailed to the Dodgers 4 years ago FINALLY arrived telling them that Baez was a joke, and that the Manhattan Bch. Premier paid him on the side to pitch to our 12 year old All Star team so they could learn to hit home runs.

    Bad News: Apparently they have not received the letter I sent 5 years ago, telling them Rent-sen was no longer MLB quality and should be demoted to AAA .

    Nothing makes sense, I know Roberts is the token Black Manager who merely sits in the Dodgers dugout while the rest of the all star team wins merely on talent. But of the times Roberts does interfere.. i.e. Taking Rich Hill out of a game while he is throwing a no hitter into the 8th inning, or bringing out Dense-en to pitch, after the set up guys who throw 100MPH plus, get pulled and benched while Bensen “The Closer” chugs it up there at 88mph at best!

    Maybe the joke is on us, as Roberts probably puts Hansen out there so that Hitters, who think the announcer said “Fence-In” will then swing wildly and hurt themselves like Tatis did the other night. However this strategy has not paid off, as Hasben Jansen leads the league in blown saves.. and he simply does not throw hard enough for anybody to get hurt..

    By the way, Jansen is available to pitch at kids parties and you can rent him to pitch to your little league team so they can feel good about themselves when they light him up.. Just call the Doyers or 800-NO-SAVES for more information.

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