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Dodgers: With Kenley Jansen’s Struggles, Who’s the Closer in October for LA?

The answer? There isn’t just one answer.



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.

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Written by Eric Eulau

Born and raised in Ventura, not "Ven-CH-ura", California. Favorite Dodger Stadium food is the old school chocolate malt with the wooden spoon. Host of the Dodgers Nation 3 Up, 3 Down Podcast.

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  1. With all the available analytical data and trend lines, you’d think the FO and Roberts would have made the determination to adjust roles for Kenley long ago and yet, here we are today having this conversation. I just don’t understand that. Blake’s performance last night was emblematic of what a closer should look like. Kenley’s lack of command and the string of rocky innings should be all the proof they need. I’m getting tired of holding my breath whenever he gets the ball with a game on the line.

  2. Jansen should be all done as a closer or any situation in the future ,thanks so much for the good years , much appreciated, but that is the past and this is now.the FO And ROBERTS supposedly says JANSEN is still going to be the closer as of now ,in another article Robert’s says he wants to install confidence in the younger pitchers , but the so called manager sends down WHITE after a great performance , send down JANSEN , He needs to find himself , but where I don’t know, ROBERT’S defends him all the time , keep using the young pitchers ,the more confidence they will have in the MAJORS , A diamond in the rough could be found for sure , but JANSEN does not have the confidence any longer, you can see it in his eyes , He Hope’s the ball will go where it should and the ball does what it should do at that time , and most of the time it is going to be a long inning ! Again thank you for the good years , but give somebody else the chance to show what they can do before the playoffs start , let the team be ready with a solid Bullpen, and a closer with consistency.

  3. Kenley Jansen should no longer be the closer in any situation any longer. This is because time and time again it is proven on how many blown save opportunities there has been and this has been for at least the last 3 seasons. Granted, Kenley will shut the door but usually in situations where the Dodgers are up by 3 runs or so going into the 9th inning where the Dodgers could afford to give up a run. Case in point, Tuesday against the Pirates, Dodgers up 4-2 Kenley comes in gives up a run even though Dodgers still hang on to win it. Still he gave up a run! And in situations where the Dodgers are ahead by one run, or tied, Kenley should not be given the ball. I WOULD NOT say to let Jansen go altogether, maybe be leveraged as a middle reliever. Seems like Kenley pitches better under less pressure and when the game isn’t on the line. Treinen would be the better choice as the closer from now on. His consistency is better and he knows how to fulfill that role as he did in Oakland.

  4. Treinen should be the closer right now. He has been the best releiver in baseball for the last month. Last night was a good example. He came in for the ninth inning and stuck out the side in order. All common sense, and all the numbers point to Treinen. Knebel should set up for Treinen in the eighth innings of games. Bickford is fully capable of coming in for long relief. There is no place for Jansen anymore. Let his contract run out.

  5. I hope that fans boo Kenley and Roberts for the rest of the year. The fans need the two of them to hear our dissatisfaction with them.

    • Hey Dodger Boy, in fact the fans were booing both Roberts and Jansen on the previous home stand So if Jansen is brought in the 9th with a 1 or 2 run lead and he coughs it up, turn up volume on the TV and you will hear a chorus of boos directed at both of them.

  6. No one has mentioned the other glaring weakness…he cant hold runners on. This brings in the possibility that every single or walk stands a good chance of quickly putting a runner in scoring position…we know from past performance, there will be a hit and there will be a walk…too much drama for a closer!

  7. I’m sad to say this, but, when it comes time to renew Jansens contract the Dodgers front office needs to thank him for his service, give him a gold watch and wish him success in his next gig. I believe this is the only way to save Dave Roberts from himself and his daft in-game decisions and force him to assignee someone else as Dodgers new fulltime closer. It’s too bad that this might be the only way to force DR to acknowledge the reality of the situation. KJ could still be useful in another role. But, DR is bound and determined to force KJ on all concerned as the Dodgers closer until it costs the them another World Series. Getting KJ off the team would remove him from DR’s insistence on using him in games that they simply can’t afford to lose.

  8. I’m convinced the front office called down and ordered Roberts to ride Urias to the win in game 6 last year.

  9. Roberts is in love with kenley and us real stubborn to accept that kenley is not a championship closer anymore. He’s trying to build him up but both of them will costs a game or 2 in post season hopefully it’s not too late to go to Blake as closer.

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