Entering the 2018 regular season, Kenley Jansen probably wouldn’t have been ranked in the top ten list of concerns in regards to any type of performance flaws. On every ball club you have your cornerstones who you can look to for dependable performance; year in and year out. A look at his career numbers tell you that Jansen has been beyond dependable. His statistics on his baseball card read as if he’s a baseball cyborg; with repeated phenomenal numbers year over year. Something is markedly different with the closer’s velocity, at least at initial presentation this season.
Jansen received extended rest during spring training. He threw 4 and 2/3 innings in five appearances, and didn’t allow a run. But during the games, his velocity on his cutter was sitting in the 89 to 91 miles per hour range rather than his usual 93 or 94 we’ve become accustomed to seeing. Take a look at his cutter velocity on his fangraphs page.
Kenley Jansen cutter velocity through the years pic.twitter.com/a9h9DENPoL
— Clint (@DiamondHoggers) March 31, 2018
This carried over to his first appearance of the regular season. Jansen entered in a 0-0 game with a slap hitter in Joe Panik at the plate. Orel Hershiser and Joe Davis remarked that Jansen’s velocity through spring wasn’t where he would like it to be. And then Panik turned around a Jansen pitch and put it in the right field stands.
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) March 31, 2018
I am trying not to overreact, and I’m asking you to do the same. Players know their bodies, and I am taking Kenley Jansen at his word on this. He remarked that he couldn’t care less about where his velocity sits. Of course, it’s not a good idea to ask a man about his velocity directly after taking a loss:
Dave Roberts indicated a mechanical issue was at fault for Kenley Jansen’s diminished velocity tonight. Jansen said that was not the case. Told his cutter clocked in at 89 mph, Jansen repeatedly asked, “Who cares?”
— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) March 31, 2018
The Dodgers face another imperative issue to their success. They will not succeed without their usual performance from Jansen over a full season’s body of work. Luckily, there are about 70 to 80 appearances remaining that we can judge him by. This is something fans should be watching closely when the game is on, seeing the velocity on each Jansen pitch and hoping to see it rise as we reach the summer months.
A player’s velocity is like a human’s heartbeat. It’s not considered ‘unhealthy’ unless it’s atypically low. There’s reason for concern, but pause for more observation should be called for. If this is something that continues into May, you have my permission to hit the panic button. If it’s a mechanical issue as the manager states, it will get cleaned up and fixed. I am planning on Jansen having his usual season – and have much greater concern with the 2018 Dodgers. If the offense doesn’t begin to hold serve, Jansen is going to become less valuable in a role of closing out wins.
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