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Dodgers Pundit Says Quit Blaming Kenley Jansen

Ken Gurnick is done with the Kenley Jansen hate.



The Dodgers are headed to the playoffs for the 8th consecutive time dating back to 2013. With a revamped lineup and an outstanding pitching staff, fans are hoping this year ultimately yields a World Series title. 

But in order for them to reach that pinnacle, the Dodgers will have to have key players locked in. One of those guys is Kenley Jansen. For the last two years, Jansen has pitched with varying results in the postseason. He shut down the Braves and Brewers in the 2018 NLDS and NLCS but got rocked in the World Series. He also had two perfect appearances in a very short 2019 NLDS. 

Even with the ups and downs of his last two seasons, MLB’s Ken Gurnick wants everyone to accept Jansen for what he is. Gurnick, a Dodgers writer, talked briefly about Kenley in his latest playoff predictions. 

Speaking of relievers, quit blaming closer Kenley Jansen for everything and accept him for what he still is – one of the best in the business, even if he’s not what he was three years ago. He’s not Mariano Rivera. Get over it. There’s plenty of blame to lay before the game ever gets to Jansen.

In Gurnick’s eyes, Kenley has been one of the best closers in all of baseball. I would argue that he WAS one of the best in 2017 when he dominated the league and saved 41 games in 42 opportunities. Since then, he’s been unpredictable, and that’s not something you love to see out of the Dodgers’ bullpen. 

To his credit, Kenley is pitching better in 2020 than he has in a while. His 3.03 FIP is the best mark since 2017, even if his xFIP says differently. His average exit velocity of 82.7 mph lands him in the top 1 percent of the league, and his xwOBA of .255 also puts him near the top of all pitchers in baseball. The Dodgers closer has revamped his mechanics, and it’s shown. 

If he can find his 2017 success again, the Dodgers could easily walk into the World Series. It’s now just a question of ‘if’. 

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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. What else did he do in 2020 ? the players just say to themselves HOW is this game gonna end ? Much talent in the PEN ,start using it !!! YOU and ROBERTS are in DENIAL .

  2. Ken Gurnick doesn’t get it on multiple levels. First, recognizing that someone has declined from prior levels of performance, is not hatred, or even lack of respect, it is acknowledgement of reality.

    Secondly, the entire Dodger bullpen was a relative weakness last year. This was clearly acknowledged by Friedman when he went out and got guys like Treinen and Graterol. Others who were weak last year, like Floro, have picked up their level. The Dodger bullpen that was weak last year, is suddenly the best in baseball this year. This means that there are plenty of guys that could replace Jansen as closer right now. And produce better results. If you don’t beleive me, look at ERAs.

    Thirdly, there are no 4 starters in the postseason 99% of the time. The Dodgers could be an exception, once we get to the full best of seven, since May and Gonsolin are both doing great jobs. But one of them will go to the bullpen at least during the initial short best of three set up. And either one of them is more capable than Jansen as closer. Neither of them should be allowed to waste away in the bullpen. They are both shutdown, impact pitchers.

    Fourthly, 89MPH four seam and cut fastballs just don’t cut it for a closer. Check the other teams in baseball. Tell me how many teams have a closer who never exceeds 92 MPH.

    Fifthly, the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. Their .717 winning percentage would equate to 116 wins in a 162 game season. Virtually all of the weaknesses of last year have become strengths. Pollack is the comeback player of the year. The catcher position is providing offense from both guys. We have a real leadoff guy in Mookie Betts who can manufacture runs, or drive it out of the park. The bullpen, except for the closer spot, has improved tremendously, and is now the best in baseball. The reason that the closer spot, and Jansen are being scrutinized, is because this is the only weakness the Dodgers have, and you can’t afford to throw away postseason games that should be in the bag when the 9th inning comes around In just about every other area, they are the best in baseball.

    Please don’t be one of those woke, politically correct twits who tell me I’m being a hater for recognizing reality. Jansen is an all time Dodger great. I respect his career accomplishments as much as anyone. But I’m a realist. There are better pitchers on this Dodger team to close games in this postseason. Unless we want to throw away a championship, even though we have the best team in baseball, we need to reject the notion that Jansen has inherited the closer role for the rest of his life. Graterol should be the closer next year. Right now a closer by committee approach should be used.

    • Every year I hear that this bullpen and pitching staff is amazing based on the regular season and every year they drop the ball in the postseason. Obviously the 2017 WS is forgiven and the hitting and managerial decisions were issues as well, but I’m tired of being the best team in baseball and not being able to trust our supposed ace and most of our pitching staff in close situations. Every regular season I say this, then all year I get stats thrown in my face, then the playoffs come and I’m (very very unhappily, mind you) proven right. May and Gonsolin look good so far but they’re young and unproven, Urias is not going to be the elite starter so many seemed to think he’d be. I’ve seen 50 quotes on this site and others about Graderol’s hopes. This is a staff who has failed 2-3 years in a row now in the playoffs as the best team in baseball, it’s gotten worse every year and we just traded away two Game 1 starters one of whom was CY young hopeful and have no true guy who the whole league thinks of as an ace. Buehler is great, but we need someone who strikes fear like Kershaw used to. I’m not saying we need to rush into paying Cole 350M, but we need to do something.

  3. Will quit blaming Jansen when he quits giving up homers in big games. When we see him hoisting a WS trophy then we’ll get over it.

    BTW Gurnick if Kenley hadn’t given up that 9th inning homer in game two of 2017 WS maybe we’d have already seen that photo!

  4. Sorry I just don’t trust him any longer. Should have tried to get Hader at the deadline. Not going to win with Jansen.

  5. He WAS better this year (albeit in a shorter sample) BUT he’s still anything but lights out. let the studs in the pen have a go OR at least, keep K on a vastly shorter leash.

  6. If?? I’d be the best base stealer of all time, IF I was only faster. I could slam dunk a BB IF I could only jump higher. If IF’s & BUT’s were candy & nuts OH what a party we could have.

  7. The title of this article is quit blaming Jansen and I mostly agree with that. The one who puts him the position to fail is Roberts. I like that a pitcher must now face at least 3 batters before being pulled. Perhaps this new rule will help Roberts to better maneuver his pitching changes, as he always seems to over manage in the playoffs, which always seems to cost us. As soon as Jansen gets into trouble, he should be pulled….there can be no way in letting him stay in there and pitch his way out of it….too costly. I think the offense will finally show up throughout the playoffs and put enough runs up on the board, so it doesn’t have to come down to a Roberts awful bullpen decision.

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