Even when the Dodgers sweep a series, closer Kenley Jansen is still very much a topic of conversation. Jansen was far from perfect in his two appearances against the Pirates this week. His spotty performances drum up the eternal question – how will the Dodgers handle the closer role in October?
Seemingly, the Dodgers will continue to utilize Jansen as the primary regular season closer. That’s despite his troubling second half stats (8.25 ERA and a 2.08 WHIP) born from serious control issues. Jansen currently has the highest walk rate of his career (15.2%).
Whether fans like it or not, manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers front office are committed to Jansen as the closer.
That could, and should, change come playoff time.
The Dodgers finally won that elusive championship in 2020 for many reasons. But one big reason was being adaptable with the closer role depending on the situation. It was Julio Urias, not Jansen, who clinched Game 7 in the NLCS as well as Game 6 in the World Series. It was Blake Treinen, not Jansen, who shut the door in Game 5 of the World Series.
The one World Series save opportunity (Game 4) Jansen did get didn’t go well. We’ll leave it at that.
It may have taken a year or two longer than it should have, but the Dodgers learned that Jansen is not the best option for every single closing opportunity in the playoffs.
This season, Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, and (maybe) Phil Bickford all provide options come October. Depending on the health of Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias could be primed for an encore performance out of the bullpen.
Jansen is still capable, but he’s not 2017 Kenley anymore. The Dodgers know that.
The eye test and the numbers show that he’s no longer shut down closer. It’s hard to believe that one of the most analytically driven teams in the league would blindly trot Jansen out in an elimination playoff game.
Especially when the team has proven they can be successful by being adaptable.