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Dodgers: The One Reason Why LA Can’t Trust Kenley Jansen as Closer



Kenley Jansen sits as the Dodgers all-time leader in saves with 337 but has experienced many ups and downs throughout his memorable career in LA. The 3-time all-star was terrific to start the year, posting a 1.24 ERA with just two blown saves in 36.1 IP during the first half of the season. The second half has been a different story though, as he’s posted an 8.25 era with three blown saves across 12 innings of work.

We discuss why Kenley Jansen has struggled to find consistency in the second half and give you the number one reason why the Dodgers can’t trust him every night for the stretch run and in the postseason. Plus, how LA should utilize Kenley and how the team should alter their approach when it comes to closing games.

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Again, the numbers here in the second half… they’re not pretty.

Meanwhile, Corey Knebel has been nails since his return from a lat injury and Blake Treinen has been absolutely dominant, allowing just 2 earned runs (!) over his last 28 games

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NEXT: Gavin Lux Returns From the Injured List and Has a New Role

Written by Doug McKain

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  1. I totally agree. Especially when two of the three blown saves were in critical games with the Giants. And, although at least one of those was not entirely his fault, the fact remains he could not get the strikeouts when the team needed them! His strikeout rate is down some, and the hitters make contact. I would no longer trust him with a one run lead.

  2. Last night Kenley pitched well. The double down the line was a good piece of hitting with no 3rd basemen because of the shift and the other hit a bloop. The walk though was not good. This lead of course to one run. The 3 outs were vintage Kenley. I’ve watched a couple blown saves and they were also just like Tuesday night. Now that said he still is not dominating but he always seemed to make it nerve racking in past years but would get the pop up and then the strikeout or weak contact. He actually has a better pitch now mix most nights keeping the opponents off balance. His cutter to lefties isn’t dominating that’s true but His home run rate is way down lately. So if he can cut out his walks and pitch to the location with his defense set behind him he’ll be fine. Doc says we need Kenley to be dominant or Kenley to go far and to that I agree for the Dodgers to dominate. But Treinen is really the best one too close so it’s about starters going at least seven and finding that setup man for Treinen. Knebel? Bickford? Duffy? Joe Kelly I think could be that guy but what’s up with him and all these wierd undisclosed injury stuff.? Any one seeing things in this way? John Higelin

    • I too find it very odd that Joe Kelly seems to go down periodically for “undisclosed injuries.” You don’t see that too often with any other players in the league. Now, if I were to guess the nature of these “undisclosed injuries,” I’d say it’s most likely a non-baseball related injury and more of a personal (and maybe a little embarrassing) issue that he’s dealing with from time to time. Somthing like a case of genital warts that’s flaring up. He kinda looks like the type of guy who would…

  3. Kenley Jansen walks per 9 innings (BB9):

    CAREER = 2.6

    this year = 5.8

    In 2017, his BB9 was 0.9 (he led the league in saves that year. His strikeouts are down too, but it is the walks that have cost him most often.

    The rest of his numbers are pretty consistent with his best years.

  4. All you have to do is watch where the catcher places his glove; Jansen cannot hit the target. In fact, every time he misses, it’s either “just a bit outside”, or it’s a HR. He has lost his control!

    At least with $20 mil coming off the books, that can be split between Seager and T Turner (plus their current salaries, or part of) to resign/extend them…

  5. Treinan is lights out.
    Knebel is back to form.
    Graterol is really improved.
    Bickford has been a huge surprise.
    Vesia looks locked in.
    Bruihl has been a nice surprise.
    White was dominant last night.
    Gonzalez will be back.
    Price is serviceable.
    Kahnle will be available next month.
    Ferguson comes back in ’22.

    Why the he!! do we need Jansen?!!

    • there are 18 Million reasons why we need him this season. don’t worry about Jansen. just like last season/playoffs, doc will not use him if he has other options available. with all the chips pushed in this season, the Dodgers will do anything to repeat and win the WS in 2021!

  6. Three words describe Jansen: “Tight Rope Walker”.
    I recall a discussion on ESPN between Brian Kenny and Chris Russo, where Kenny was regurgitating a litany of stats regarding HOF candidates. Russo, who was not a big sabermetrics proponent, said the stats are fine, but you’ve got to watch the games (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8oYUPoAufQ). I feel the same way about Jansen. No matter what the stats say, I always get that “oh no” feeling whenever he comes into a close game. Even when he gets the save, it’s only after he takes us through his tightrope act.
    With the Dodgers trying to catch the Giants and with the postseason coming, all the games are high leverage events. Roberts can use Jansen in blowout games and perhaps as the first or second pitcher in a “bullpen game”.

  7. K. Jansen is the new Pedro Baez, So inconsistent. If Roberts can reduce Kershaw’s role, he can certainly reduce Jansen’s.

  8. Set the number aside and just watch him pitch. He just can’t command anything. He rarely hits the target or even the area he wants to throw to. Tuesday night, he threw 3 cutters straight down the middle of the plate. He’s
    Lucky the Pirates are horrible.

  9. Need to take him out of closer role. Can’t trust him to close when the Dodgers are leading by 1 run. Too erratic and too many walks.

  10. Jansen simply seems to be struggling out there even when he comes in fresh from the bull pen. His control and ability to “spot the ball” seems weak. Michael, you’re right he was lucky with the Pirates. Thankfully, while Janesn was playing with gasoline and matches, the Met’s took it to the Giants in extra innings.

    I’m not sure I can comfortably watch Jansen in a closer role against the Giants again. He’s become a “two beer” reliever: If Jansen is coming in to pitch, drink two beers quickly. You’ll need it.

  11. Jansen is not typically pitching against the other teams best; Treinin is handling the tougher hitters in the eighth often.

  12. Cannot wait for him to be gone at the end of the season. Someone proposed an Arlodis Chapman trade to the Dodgers.

  13. Going to need someone to do a Julio like last year in the post season, and it sure ain’t him!!
    I’m hoping Duffy’s healty, cause it just might be a combo of him and Treinen. Another heart attack waiting to happen is Graterol with his no swing and miss 101 mph straight ball.
    Vesia and Bickford unproven, but way more comfortable with them than Kenley. More comfortable with just about anyone else at this point

  14. Simply put, Jansen creates more problems than he solves. He can’t seem to focus unless he allows the tying or winning runs on base and then it’s a crap shoot after that. A closer is someone that is expected to close the door on the opponent consistently without much drama. Jansen is no longer in that category. Please stop trying to make him be something he is not.

  15. Jansen cannot get outs against playoff capable teams, especially if the hitters get repeat chances to see him. Like in a playoff series.

  16. Anxiety attack every time KJ steps up to the mound. Actually it starts when Roberts heads out of the dugout. Obviously KJ has something on Roberts. KJ now has the hip wiggle that is not very affirming that he has his stuff, which he just doesn’t anymore. He never has a clean inning. KJ is all heart (huge ego), but everyone can see that that is about it. If Roberts has to use him, he should be the 1st reliever out of the pen and most definitely not the ‘closer’. Not much more to say. The Dodgers now have Knebel, Treinen, and Vesia, Kelly…. …….Absolutely no reason to resign him, but especially as designated closer.

  17. Mr. ( DRAMA ) Jansen is so into himself, he would never say to the team , I do not have it any longer as a closer , but I will be there to help you in any other way I can . Jansen would never do that because he feels that he still has it , he is the best and is entitled to be a closer ! A real …JOKE … He and ROBERT’S better get to reality , a few good innings is like an adrenaline rush , a fix to his brain only temporary , He can hardly ever shut the opponent’s down , and usually takes a crazy amount of time to close a game … if he is successful… , it would be great without all the drama , but that will never happen again , if you play him , play him early , play him with a great lead by the Dodgers , play him against weaker teams , It is so SAD the Dodgers are the only team who will not recognize that Jansen does not have it to close consistently , It’s strange how other teams recognize when the closer they have , does not have it any longer , The team takes the measures to fix it , Jansen has had to many chances and one day , like playing with fire it will cost the Dodgers Dearly.

  18. Sorry to say especially being a long time Dodger fan I don’t watch if I know he’s coming in & the game is close enough to lose. Totally do not agree he should have this role, period ! The Dodgers have other arms that can get the job done use them !

  19. I find it interesting, during Roberts and his time with playing for the Dodgers, we as fans saw GAME OVER with Gagne. Now Roberts is managing and it is GAME OVER for the other team. Btw, BEST intro song ever to close a game was with EG.

  20. Has been……lost it….big head…..worn out……(I’m getting help from my wife!)……and to quote JR…”washed up”. No reason for more than 2 words….how about …adios?

  21. I think that Jansen has done a great job according to who record this year. We get a little nervous and anxiety out but he is brought in as a 9th inning closer. You guys know he is doing a great job.

  22. yeah, i think he should be used either as a setup man at the beginning of an inning (read: never to be brought in with runners on unless he’s got recent history of absolutely DOMINATING the batter that’s up, then take him out). also if the lead in the ninth is 3 runs or better. but…dave likes his matchups and sabermetrics so much, why doesn’t he just use THAT to guide ALL his relief situations? including closer. that’s where i’m at, unless knebel goes on to DOMINATE the rest of the season…then i say go with him.

    and joe kelly…that guy’s stuff is so good. i wish he could get and stay healthy. i was so stoked when he signed…what he did to us in the world series was just NASTY, and i was BEGGING to pick him up. then we do and it’s this conga line to the injury list…

  23. Jansen should have adjusted as he got older, expanding his pitch repertoire. As a former position player, however, maybe he just doesn’t have the tools. As it is, he’s lost velocity and movement while still throwing the same few pitches. Consequently, the batters can just sit on the fastball.

    The greatest issue with Jansen is Dave Roberts, who seems to think he’s team psychologist and must give priority to Kenley’s self esteem over putting the best guys out there, even to the point of leaving him in far longer than he would any other pitcher.

    The two together – fading Jansen plus Roberts’ errors in judgment – equals trouble.

  24. Two years ago he was beginning to show signs of decline and instead of admitting it , he was blaming the catchers . Now those catchers are gone. What is his excuse now ?

    • The new catchers are putting the glove in the wrong spot, which would explain why Jansen can’t hit a single target. Yeah, that’s it. It’s the new catchers fault…

  25. Maybe I am wrong about Jansen. I can’t see everything and looking at the stats tells me otherwise.

  26. All the words about KJ as written here should say something. But only commenters know this. Anyone who could do something about Jansen won’t read ideas from fans like us.

  27. Jansen in the 6th {if we must}
    Graterol in the 7th
    Knebel in the 8th
    Treinen as Closer

    Gives Dodgers 3 innings to get back the runs Jansen gave up in 6th

  28. Last postseason Roberts did NOT bring in Jansen for the decisive games against the Braves and Rays – he left Urias in for both 8th and 9th innings of those 2 decisive postseason games I hope Roberts will use the same type judgement in the key stretch games this year that he used last year in theb2020 postseason – I think most Dodger fans believe that when Jansen pitches ninth inning in a one or two run game it’s not “game over” it’s “game on”

  29. Even if we Dodgers fans do not believe it’s “game on” when Kenley takes the mound in the 9th, our opposition certainly does. I am unsure of his stats this season, but it seems that opposing teams are correct in thinking, “now is our chance” at least half of the time. Even when we win, there’s usually quite a bit of traffic and/or drama attached to closing the game; so, its just gotten to be very uncomfortable to see him on the mound in the 9th. I can only hope that Roberts exercises sound judgment as we move forward. Overall, our bullpen has done an amazing job, specifically in light of the fact we currently have few starting pitchers. It’s impressive that the Dodgers have remained within reach of the Division and carry one of the best records in baseball this season. Go Dodgers!

  30. For closers, it’s as important as anything else that they inspire confidence when they take the mound. It’s all about their vibe, their energy, their command of the situation.
    Exhibiting field generalship on a consistent basis is key as well as conveying to the opposition that they are about to meet their maker-so to speak.
    My issue with Kenley, for years now, is that he is, too often, the antithesis of that.
    Opposing teams know they may be in for a battle, but they are confident they will win it.
    Even when Kenley executes his pitches reasonably well, because hitters are confident and “dug in” against him, they find ways to reach base on soft contact, drawing BB’s and they create rallies that result in the Dodgers defense being back on their heels.
    You only have to look at Kenley’s issues in Games 2 & 5 of the 2017 WS, in Game 3 of the 2018 WS and game 4 of the 2020 WS, to get the picture.

  31. Let Jensen pitch in a different way! Roberts DO NOT LET JENSEN CLOSE! He is not like his old self, Dave, you yourself knows this i hope. Let Treinen close games, Jensen had his years as a CLOSER for the Dodgers, don’t let him go down again, Jensen BLEW games ALREADY! He let down his teammates when they pitched great games ONLY to blow their games!!! Dave if YOU really cared for Jensen, Let Treinen close and let Jensen close for another team. Don’t DAMAGE his career. He has done that already! LET’S GO DODGERS!!!

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