Can the Dodgers Trust Kenley Jansen’s Closing Abilities?

(John McCoy/Getty Images)

In the weeks leading up to the 2019 trade deadline, many fans of the Dodgers were certain that management would find a way to snag one or more relievers to bolster what has been a mediocre relief crew this season.

Ideally, many of us around these parts were hoping for a proven arm who could settle into the eighth-inning role and perhaps slide in as closer when Kenley Jansen was unavailable or otherwise performing poorly.

For certain, all eyes were on flame-throwing southpaw Felipe Vazquez, but since Neal Huntington and the Pirates decided not to part with their stud reliever, the next best option seemed to be Shane Greene, who at the time, had a sparkling 1.18 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP with the Tigers.

Former Los Angeles Assistant GM Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves were able to grab Greene for quite the pretty penny while the Dodgers settled for what was hardly a consolation prize in lefty-specialist Adam Kolarek.

Maybe Andrew Friedman’s magical powers knew that Greene would get beat up badly over his first handful of appearances in Atlanta. And, perhaps more importantly, Friedman knows something that fans don’t about how the way his relief corps will evolve by the time the playoffs roll around in October.

Friedman envisioned there would be options in case Jansen faltered. It’s a tough situation to gauge because the Dodgers’ offense is so strong, often pounding its opponent to smithereens or coming from behind when folks expect it the least. By being so powerful, it’s difficult to evaluate the starting rotation and bullpen at face value because the offense frequently carries such a huge load.

Of course, there are the contests where the offense hardly shows up, like the August 2 loss to the Padres when the Dodgers were able to garner four total hits against Eric Lauer and Company (these things will occasionally happen, even with the most prolific offenses). However, the games that really stand out are the ones when Jansen blows a save opportunity and the team ultimately finds defeat.

Apparently, Friedman feels his options in relief down the stretch of the 2019 season are good ones, thus one of the reasons he stayed put at the deadline. Ross Stripling will be back in relief at some point, and Kenta Maeda will likely be bumped back to the bullpen for the playoffs.

Julio Urias, who has probably been one of the Top 3 relief options as of late (aside from the dinger he surrendered in the 11th inning on Friday night), will definitely be around. Both Pedro Baez and Joe Kelly have been wearing their respective Jekyll and Hyde masks all season long. Some nights they look untouchable, while on others fans cringe when they quickly load up the bases.

Yimi Garcia‘s slider has perhaps the best overall spin rate in the majors, but Yimi’s problem can often be locating it in a spot that’s not in the dead-center of the K-zone.

Regardless, the real concern these days is Jansen—the backbone of the Dodgers’ pen who was once borderline untouchable. If you’re a fan of WAR like we are, you’ll know that Jansen’s mark for this year is 0.0—by far the lowest of his illustrious 10-year career. His 3.83 ERA this season is almost a full point higher than his previous worst 3.01 mark from last year. Undoubtedly, as Kenley ages, he’s losing his effectiveness.

It happens. But, the overlying concern is that there’s not a legitimate backup plan.

As a team, the Dodgers have 20 blown saves this year in 51 total chances—good enough for eighth worst in baseball.

As far as Kenley himself goes, the three-time All-Star thinks he’ll battle his way through his struggles. That’s the mindset a manager or a coach wants from a player, but some believe that Jansen is overemphasizing his confidence instead of try to tweak his mechanics or delivery in order to improve his performance.

“I know I’m the guy who’s done the job. Listen, don’t forget who I am,” Jansen recently said in an interview with Bill Plunkett of the OC Register. ““Everybody struggles in this game. Tell me Mariano (Rivera) never struggled. Tell me Trevor Hoffman didn’t struggle. Tell me Billy Wagner didn’t struggle. Any name you can mention.”

Despite all that, the biggest lingering question is how the relief crew of the Dodgers will perform in the playoffs. Conceivably, the team has enough starting pitching. The offense is about as good as a big league offense gets.

Undoubtedly, the relief crew is definitely the weakest link.

In theory, during one of those games when the offense doesn’t beat its opposition to a pulp, or when there’s the seldom evening when the club lays an egg, the team will be looking to its bullpen to preserve a tight victory.

In the end, Kenley seems to think he’ll be in a good spot when the team needs him the most, assuming that time occurs during the 2019 postseason. In the meantime, the best fans can do is just sit back, wait and see where the remainder of this year’s journey takes them.

“I call it turbulence,” Jansen said. “You have to fly that plane and get through it.”


48 thoughts on “Can the Dodgers Trust Kenley Jansen’s Closing Abilities?

  1. Another innovative lineup for Saturday evening:
    CF AJ Pollock
    3B Justin Turner
    LF Kristopher Negron
    RF Cody Bellinger
    2B Max Muncy
    1B Tyler White
    SS Corey Seager
    C Russell Martin
    P Kenta Maeda

  2. It is not a case of can they, it is a case of they really have no other options right now. Yeah, they can afford to give Kenley a blow to work on some things and try Kelly. He does have closer experience, but who else on this team would anyone trust. Quackenbush has 10 saves and 9 holed down at OKC. They could even audition him. But at this point in time, Jansen is the only viable option. One other thing. Jansen last night suffered from a little bad luck. He made a great pitch to Ahmed who hit the ball off of the end of the bat for a bloop single. He made 1 bad pitch to Kelly. Had Ahmed popped that ball up instead of hitting it off the end of the bat, Jansen would have only given up 1 and they would have won. Things happen. Urias served up a cookie to the same guy 2 innings later. No panic. Jansen has been very good,. and unlucky a few times.

  3. A couple of changes in tonight’s lineup. Pollock, Turner, Negron, Bellinger, Muncy, White, Seager, Martin, Maeda. Martin in for Smith…and Negron from 5th to 3rd. Other than that, same guys who could only muster 2 hits last night. It is time for Belli and Muncy to break out. They are both in prolonged slumps.

  4. “I call it turbulence,” Jansen said. “You have to fly that plane and get through it.”
    Someone needs to tell Kenley that sometimes the turbulence knocks the plane out of the sky.
    On the other hand, Bear is right. Kenley basically made one bad pitch last night and it cost him.
    Hey, if Kenley has a bad playoff run, there’s always next year. (Commenter ducks and runs).

    1. Maybe I am trying to make the Pig look good so Scoop will take her out! Nope, Jansen gave up 13 dingers last year and saved 38 games. He has given up 7 this year and has 26 saves. He has averaged 30 saves a year. Still saves a lot more than he loses. He is not the stud, 1-2-3 blow em down type of pitcher anymore, but he is doing the same thing Kersh is doing, morphing into a different cat than when he started. I have heard more guys say Kershaw is done, and he will never be that great again. News for you boys. He is pitching pretty good. 11-2 and he has made all his starts quality starts. Better yet he keeps his team in the game. Ryu, Buehler and Kersh have all done that this year. Last night Buehler was not as sharp as he has been, but he gave them a chance to win and 6 solid shutout innings. I will tell you who I do not trust right now, Urias. He has not been all that great his last 7 games. He has been touched for 17 hits, 6 walks and 5 ER in 14.1 innings 0-1 in that period. 13 of those hits and 3 walks in his last 3 games. He and Maeda irritate me a lot because they both have been guilty of nibbling at the corners instead of challenging these guys. Want to know why he gave up the game winning homer? He had to come in with a strike because he was behind in the count and laid a cookie right in the middle of the plate.

      1. Even if you put lipstick on a pig his breath would still smell like a kennel.

  5. Bear the voice of reason! I like it. Point is a lot of closers are struggling this year. Tho I did see Vazquez close out the other night striking out the side throwing 100 mph. Too bad Pirates couldn’t have been more reasonable!

    1. They had no reason to be reasonable. They held the card everyone wanted and nobody anted up for the prize hand. Yep. he throws 100. Kelly hits 100 too. Most MLB hitters can catch up to fastballs. Even the 100 MPH jobs. And if it is in the middle of the plate, the same thing can happen to it that happened to Urias’s hanger….

  6. Not too thrilled with this lineup. I am not altogether down with Negron hitting where you usually put your best hitter. Turner belongs there, not Negron. Can’t wait for Gyorko or Freese to get back so we can say adios to the Mack truck that is Tyler White. Guy is slower than the proverbial turtle.

    1. What’s will all the negative comments on White? I guarantee at least 2 hits from him tonight including a homer. You heard it first here, although I assume there are people all over the internet predicting the same thing.
      Don’t laugh, I know what I’m talking about. I’m the guy who predicted a Dodger WS victory for each of the last 30 years.

      1. Because I firmly believe the guy will be and is one of AF’s swings and misses. He is more like a windmill than a slugger…Lots of wind generated when he swings, not much contact.

  7. Don’t know if the Dodgers can trust Jansen but I don’t. I do like seeing him in there…. because it likely means we have the lead. But obviously he’s not as good as he usta was.

    Kershaw has surprised me. He too isn’t the Cy Young Kershaw but he’s getting it done. I do expect him to take a few starts off before too long. I hope he’s rested for the playoffs.

    Lineups. Do they really matter at this point? Negón is hitting over .300 the last 2 weeks. I think we’ll win this one.

  8. I trust Kenley more with a 3 run lead than 2. Too many times that runner gets on and he gets flustered or what ever and he has a hard time getting the outs. My big problem with the entire staff is that when the Dodgers do score, the other team invariably scores. Maeda kept the D-Backs from doing that so far, but when he melted down against the Padres last week, same thing. Dodgers scored and Maeda gave up the lead. He seems to be pitching with a lot more intensity tonight. Bellinger is still struggling.

  9. We might have to play extra innings for White to get 2 hits Jefe. He’s got 1 hit as a Dodger. It might take 2 more games for him to get another one.

    Pretty quiet offense of late.

    Ok, 2 innings of bullpen. It’s pucker time.

  10. Enough of the Tyler White experiment! Let’s move on. Bring back Garlick. And welcome back Mr Maeda!

    1. Scared…..historically, Jansen is not very good when coming into a game to mop up. He tends to not concentrate enough. Remember, earlier this year he gave up a game winning Grand Slam to Renfroe.

  11. Check out he Astros. They have like 7 guys with OPS of near 900 or better and Alvarez is just insane! And with that starting pitching! Wow! That’s gonna be a tough team to beat!

    1. Again I say my son, they have to get there first. Now, they probably will, but anything can happen. Injuries, slumps, a surprise team comes from no where. As good as the Dodgers are, they still have to win. Against whoever they fact in the playoffs. They are going to have to play near perfect baseball. Their starting staff matches up with anyone. My theory got tested. Jansen closed the game out giving up a hit and a couple of fly balls. 78-41. Best in the bigs. Astros scored 23 runs tonight. 18 game lead with 43 to play…..

      1. Yeah Bear, statistically our staff does match up with Houston, but I wonder how those numbers would look if our staff had to face a second #3 or #4 hitter instead of the pitchers spot in the order. Home field plays a huge factor in the World Series. Houston depth chart lists Alvarez, Brantley and Springer. Yikes. Our DH depth chart has Freese, Kiké, Taylor and Verdugo. That’s if everyone is healthy. Right now it’s White, Negrón and Beaty. I think. Not even sure at this point.

  12. Highest paid:
    Kenley Jansen
    Mark Melancon
    Wade Davis
    Aroldis Chapman
    Craig Kimbrel

    Most Saves:
    Kirby Yates
    Aroldis Chapman
    Brad Hand
    Will Smith
    Robert Osuna

    Save %:
    Alex Colome
    Felipe Vasquez
    Sergio Romo
    Ken Giles
    Brad Hand

    Is paying closers for what they DID a good idea?

  13. They almost did not re-sign Jansen, and remember he turned down DC who offered more money. He wanted to be here, and for the most part, he has been very successful. They had no other options at the minor league level, so they paid him based on history. Exactly what the Phillies did with Harper. He is way below his career numbers. Today’s goat can be tomorrows hero. Kershaw, the way he is now, is much more deceptive than CK of a few years ago. Jansen’s most mystifying problem is that one day he is lights out, and the next, he cannot find consistency, and that’s what the game is all about. I remember in the 2017 series, the Astros were sitting on Kersh’s fastball. They were sitting on Darvish’s pitches too. And they knew all about Kenley’s cutter. I also remember a game they lost a couple of years ago when I really questioned Grandal’s game calling skills. Baez made 5 pitches to a hitter and all 5 were fastballs. Nothing else. #5 was deposited into the RF stands and they lost. I am more confident in this team because they seem to be on a mission. They are better prepared than other years. They rarely chase pitches out of the zone. They have gotten key contributions from players not expected to do that. Negron got a key single last night, and all of a sudden, Russell Martin is hitting. There is another site I post on, Scoop knows of which I speak, and there is so much negativity there that I cringe when I go there because even when they win there is criticism. Sure, AF has done some things I question, and adding White, who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat, Sorry Tommy, I had to steal that line, and Kolarek has not exactly inspired confidence. But his resistance to trading his young stars at the farm level has allowed us to enjoy Belli and Seager, and the luck or whatever you want to call it in finding guys like Muncy and Taylor has made the team better, and no matter how much I might dislike his modus operandi, I cannot argue with the results. Go Ryu, and lets take this series.

    1. I don’t know why you stay there Bear.

      I went on record that for Cole Hamels I would have included Urias but not Seager. I think a package including Urias would have done it. I still believe Hamels would have helped bring home at least 1 Championship. He was 7-1 after the trade with a 0.9 WHIP in post season. Who’d we get? I’m not going there. Too painful.

      1. To tell you the truth Scoop, sometimes I wonder myself. But I like Scott, and he has always been fair with me. Oscar is battling health issues, so the site is barely afloat. Did not want to abandon it yet, but I am getting closer.

  14. I love it when someone accuses me of being a management lackey. Fellow poster on another site claims I am drinking the Kool-Aid. I do not drink Kool-Aid. And I do not always agree with AF’s and Roberts methods. Ahh, the joys of being a Dodger fan!!!

    1. Dodger Kool-Aid ain’t that hard to swallow. I found it kinda bitter at first…. but a couple of pennants is pretty sweet.

  15. Final like on Ryu: 7IP 5H O runs 1BB 4K
    It’s now the middle of August and he has a 1.47 ERA. Can we now all agree they need to pay this man?

    1. There may be a rather large spread between what Friedman would like to offer and what Mr. Boras thinks his client should receive in order not to explore free agency. I know Ryu is very comfortable here so that might factor into it, but I’d be very surprised if Boras didn’t take it to open bidding.

      1. I’ll be the voice of caution here. He’s 32 with a history of injury. True, he’s having his best year but….. it’s a contract year. Even if it’s only 3 years the last year of it he will 35. He could now finally be healthy or he could be another Brandon McCarthy. Friedman’s history says 3 @ $16 million, with Ryu being mostly unavailable the final year.

  16. I’m guessing Boras opens the bidding at 5/100, knowing he won’t get anywhere near that. They’ll be hoping for 4 years from someone and will be ready to settle for 3, but I can’t see less than 3/60 IF (a big if) he continues to pitch almost as well as this for the rest of the season. I don’t know how much the Padres have to spend but this would be just the kind of signing they might like. Even Farhan might get involved if he can clear some more payroll. And then there are the Angels who absolutely should get involved. I do think Ryu will wind up with a West Coast team and although I’m sure Ryu’s first choice would be to stay here, it only takes one gambler to throw a silly contract at him.

    1. Solid post Jefe. I can’t help but think you may be right about a team throwing more than 3 and 16 at him. I just don’t think it will be us. Whether we win or not Ryu will have served his time here. Does he have 3 more years as good as this one? Logic says no. He hasn’t had 3 like this during his prime years, why should anyone believe he will get better with age? Those days in MLB are are gone. I agree he will remain out west.

  17. Boras will absolutely aim for 4 years, I think even he knows he won’t get 5. I hope Ryu really does love LA and gives us a discount of around 3 years $48 mil like Dennis mentioned above but I believe it will take every penny of $60 million to do the job. Even if Ryu regresses a bit he’s still a #2 or 3 type starting pitcher. I believe that won’t be the case. Ryu is the epitome of the type of pitcher whose last half of his career ends up being better than the first half. He doesn’t need to overpower hitters to succeed and his control is among the elite of the elite. When you can locate 4 pitches anywhere on command you don’t need a 95mph fastball. The emergence of his cutter/sinker has not only helped his 4 seam play up a bit but it also has made his devastating changeup that much better. I do hope they can find some time to rest him before the playoffs though, he’s already at 142 innings. I can’t imagine they want to push him much past 180.

    1. Good point Alex. Ryu is not a flame thrower whose velo will go down as he ages. As you said, the kind of stuff he throws and his approach to pitching will not suffer nearly as much from age as a fastball-only pitcher. Hill is pitching at 42 and Ryu is 10 years younger than that. Boras will be happy to point that out to everyone as he starts by asking for 5/100 and your point about the type of pitcher he’s representing will be Bullet #1 in his presentation. I think someone (maybe not AF) will give him a 4 year deal.

      1. Rich Hill is 39 and he isn’t pitching. But I get your point. There are exceptions to the “peaked by 30” rule. Maybe Ryu is one of them. Ryu’s early projections were <130 IP so I would imagine they will be cautious with him the rest of the way. 180 innings? No way. That’s just asking for a blowout. And Alex, 3@16 is 3 and 48. Friedman did that a couple of times for iffy pitchers late in their career. He even gave Brett Anderson $16 million. He seems to like that figure. He might do it again. I would be surprised if he went higher, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else did.

      2. Thanks for pointing out the error Scoop. I’m sure Hill thanks you too. There’s definitely a difference between 39 and 42 and he’ll see that in his next contract. Don’t know where I got the number 42 from unless maybe I read somewhere that Hill planned to pitch until he was 42. Anyway, I think the odds of Ryu being back are much higher than Hill. In case you were wondering Friedman’s calculations are done as follows: lifetime WAR = X$. Once he calculates that, if the player has a history of injury he adds another 10 mil (eg. Kazmir, Anderson, McCarthy).

  18. Hah! Finally figured out where I got the age 42 from on Hill. That’s how old Brady is and he says he wants to play three more years. Didn’t even have the right sport, but at least I had the right city. 🙂

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