Much Ado About Kenley

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The Dodgers have always been the front runners when it come to using analytics to better their baseball team. Using the shift and platooning are just a few of the ways the teams has tried to use statistics to their advantage.

While the Dodgers are not the first to use a starter, essentially a pitcher starting for only one to two innings, it’s now something they are exploring for possible use in the postseason. In addition, the last two games were both bullpen games – trying to see what reliever might be used when, who matched up better against right or left-handers, who could be a starter or who is better to come in in the middle of the game. The Dodgers have a huge lead, so all of this in theory is a great time to try these things out.

A bullpen game is all well and good if two aspects of it hold true. One, that you don’t need a lot of bullpen usage in the previous games. And two, that your bullpen is dependable. Dennis discussed a lot of the ins and outs of this possibility on Tuesday . As fans of the Dodgers know, the bullpen has been hit and miss all season. A mix of Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Julio Urias, who all can provide some length of innings, might be enough to match up against another team’s fourth starter. All have been dominate in their own ways, yet differently from each other, and the mix of pitchers could be enough to keep another team on their toes.

But the biggest problem remains with Kenley Jansen, and his inability to remain consistently good. In his three previous outings before Wednesday, he had it all working. The cutter was cutting, and he was hitting his spot. But last night, he was back to his worrisome ways.

In some ways, it’s worse that Kenley is inconsistent. If he were pitching badly all the time, it’d be an easy thing to replace him as primary closer. But the question remains, which Kenley is going to show up in October? And maybe more pressing, what is Dave Roberts going to do if Kenley happens to not be on that day? Who does he turn to, if he hasn’t already used them in innings before?

As we’ve talked about many times here, Roberts is loyal to his players to a fault. He always gives them plenty of time to work out whatever issues they may be having, whether it’s at the plate or in the mechanics of pitching. Time is running short for Kenley to do so, however. And more likely, he won’t ever be the dominate force out of the bullpen he once was.

While not ideal, it’s ok that Jansen isn’t what he once was – so long as everyone is on the same page about it, and plans accordingly. The Dodgers have other options for the closer role. Joe Kelly has held opponents to a .179 batting average since the beginning of June. Pedro Baez has bested that, holding opponents to a .159 BA against in his last 25 appearances. And while Yimi Garcia is home run prone, since the start of August, he has a tidy 1.81 ERA.

None of these are perfect, leaving the Dodgers with a great conundrum of what to do in the final innings of playoff games. Kelly would personally be my choice, with his ability to hit 100 MPH and recent experience closing out World Series games.

But I also think one of the biggest hindrances is Kenley himself not wanting to relinquish the closer role. In one way, you want your closer to have the confidence and ego to want the ball the close out the game. But you also want him not taking the ball when he knows he doesn’t have his stuff that day, and additionally, a manager that won’t have a problem taking the ball before the situation gets out of hand, and not when it’s already too late. Dodger fans have been down that road one too many times before. Here to hoping this is the season the Dodgers finally get it right, even with an imperfect bullpen. Dodger fans, and players, deserve to get it right.

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18 thoughts on “Much Ado About Kenley

  1. Jansen will be the closer until he blows one in the playoffs. You’re right Dennis Roberts is loyal especially to one of his stars. What do you do? Kersh has been wildly inconsistent in playoffs. Are you gonna sit him? Belly hasn’t done much in his playoffs. These are your horses. And maybe they are just not good enough. Only time will tell this year!

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  2. That was the best description of Jansen&Roberts I think there is more ego involved with your closer I wouldn’t want to be in Doc’s shoes. I have a lot of respect for Honeycutt but again walking on egg shells to hurt his feelings well this is the big part of the show going to the WS and time to bring home the bacon. Hurt his feelings tough shit as most players state it is a business well I guess tell them you’re not getting the job done we have to replace you for now. Hope Kenley does the job if not grab him by the ass and take him out to hell with his ego he makes enough money to get over it or pay a shrink to sit on the couch

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  3. My fault. Andy not Dennis. Nice article Andy! It’s complicated managing the big ego’s of professional athletes. Roberts has his work cut out for him this post season!

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  4. Strike or ball makes no difference. The biggest difference I see in Jansen this year is that if something goes against him, bad call, error what ever it is, he just comes unglued. He gets out of his rhythm, he overthrows or he just lays one right down the middle and boom, game tied or lost. Screw his ego. Time to do what is right for the team. Maeda has 2 saves. He is a better option than Jansen right now because he comes in and attacks the strike zone. Kelly has that killer fastball and his breaking stuff is getting a lot of K’s. But he has been bothered by some lower body issues. If he is ok, he is my first option to close. I no longer trust Kenley, especially with a 1 run lead.

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    1. I let Jansen close today but not again tomorrow. Let a committee do it tomorrow

      I think we can expect the bullpen to blow a couple in post season. No reason to believe they won’t. Minimize the damage any way you can.

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  5. Unless Kenley totally implodes over the next 10 days, he’ll be the closer going into the playoffs but I suspect he’ll be on a very short leash. I’m guessing that old friend Petey Baez will be next in line as closer if Kenley is removed, although he could alternate with Kelly depending upon the situation.
    Kasten says that Friedman will be back next year but gives no details.
    In a move that surprised me, the Marlins have extended Mattingly
    Dodgers sell a minority stake (less than 5%) to two L.A. businessmen who are longtime Dodger fans.

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      1. That money won’t be used for the closer’s salary. They’ll be using it to do a much more extensive background check on whomever they’re interested in. Can’t ever have too much information on a guy.
        After they use most of the new money on research, whatever is left can be used to pay our new closer, Josh Sborz.

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  6. The bunt can still be a smarter play.

    If you hit .200 pulling into the shift and .400 bunting against it you’d have to hit a home run every time hitting .200 to have a better OPS than bunting and a triple every time to match it. That isn’t likely.

    I remind you that the year Mantle win the Triple Crown he was 12 for 20 bunting. That is a 1.200 OPS. In his career Mantle had a .527 average in at bats that ended in a bunt. And he wasn’t facing a shift.

    Obviously Bellinger and Joc don’t need to do it every at bat, but when the balls aren’t flying out like they usta did, once or twice a game might give defenses pause. It may be too late now because I doubt they work much on it. Perhaps in the off season and Spring Training.

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    1. All true scoop, but all to complicated for a major leaguer. Talk about hitting 200, that’s closer to bellinger the past few month than we think. If he bunted 6 or 8 times in a row, I think the shift against him would change dramatically. Someone will eventually figure out that a bunt with none out works better than a out into the shift.

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