Dodgers fans have had plenty to say about Kenley Jansen this season. After giving up a walk-off grand slam in San Diego on the 5th of May, fans took to the internet to voice their concerns and frustrations.
After struggling to get on the same page with his catchers of late, he’s heard it a little more.
Kenley had plenty to say as well, especially when pressed about the possibility of adding Craig Kimbrel.
Best Dodgers Closer of All Time
RT – Kenley
LIKE – Gagnehttps://t.co/HBtn82LXkP
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) May 17, 2019
Basically, the closing situation has presented fans with a few uncomfortable ninth innings. Kenley has allowed 9 earned runs to come across and has already given up 4 home runs. His ERA is sitting at 3.98 after Wednesday’s save, and his walk rate is just as bad as it was last season.
So is there any hope that he will ever bounce back from that 2017 World Series that seems to have derailed his rock-solid reliability?
Not too long ago, the Dodgers had one of the most dominant bullpen pieces in baseball history. From 2002 to 2004, Eric Gagne was closing out games for Los Angeles and consistently slamming the door on potential rallies. He did it often, and he did it very effectively. Gagne accumulated 152 saves in those three years, including a run of 84 consecutive converted saves to set a Major League record.
Gagne pitched to a ridiculous 1.79 ERA to go along with a 0.822 WHIP and 13 strikeouts per nine innings. He was literally almost unhittable for those three years, and the Dodgers knew they had something special. They signed the reliever from Montreal to a two-year deal worth $19 million to avoid arbitration in January 2005.
Kenley Jansen tied Eric Gagne's franchise save record at 161.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) June 15, 2016
That’s when everything went very wrong for the Dodgers and Eric Gagne. A series of arm injuries and nerve issues derailed the rest of his career in Los Angeles, as he pitched just 15 innings combined over the next two years.
So the question then remains, should the career of Eric Gagne concern us or encourage us in regards to Kenley Jansen?
No Need to Stress
The short answer is that Kenley Jansen and Eric Gagne are not the same people. Gagne’s career was derailed mostly due to injuries, and Kenley is just going through a bit of a rough patch. He is still the guy that throws a hard cutter and can get the outs he needs to. Just because both pitchers had a dominant run before earning a large contract does not mean they will have similar career arcs.
Have the last two years been rough? Absolutely. His ERA+ sits at 104, which is by far the worst mark of his career as a closer. But that is no reason to give up on him now. He is sill our guy in the ninth inning, and he’s got some time to figure it all out. Kenley has not allowed a run in his past three outings either, which should give us all some encouragement.
Don’t forget, he has a player opt-out in his contract after this year. Meaning that if he chooses to, he could elect free agency rather than pursue the remaining $38 million left. Not likely, but still something to consider.