Can Dodgers Trust Kenley Jansen to Close During Critical 2021 Stretch Run?

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The topic of Kenley Jansen effectively closing games is not foreign to fans of the Dodgers. Jansen’s inconsistencies on the mound began during the 2018 season, the same year he underwent a second surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat. Whether it was the result of his heart, his age, too much mileage on his arm, or something psychological, the 33-year-old Jansen’s overall performance hasn’t been the same since.

For three years, fans of the team have begun each season asking the question if Kenley would be the featured closer or if the club would turn to someone else. Aside from several critical moments during the 2020 playoffs, skipper Dave Roberts has put all his trust in Jansen. However, trailing the Giants by four games with about 40 contests to go this season, those same fans wonder if Kenley has enough in the tank to go the whole way this year.

Although the 2020 season was structured entirely differently, the Dodgers led the Padres by a full six games with about a week remaining. On this date in 2019, the Dodgers led the Giants by a whopping 18-1/2 games before going on to set a franchise record with 106 wins. That makes the stretch run this season a completely different animal, as each game has its own critical level of importance.

So far this year, Jansen has blown five saves, but that doesn’t even begin to accurately tell the story. Some nights he shows glimpses of his former self, while other times he walks a tightrope, usually having to work himself out of unnecessary jams against some of the league’s worst teams.

Among the things he’s tried is analysis and evaluation at Driveline Baseball, a facility the Dodgers have become religious to in recent years. This season, Kenley has seemingly discovered the benefits of pitching “angry,” which apparently turned him into a new pitcher — for a few weeks, anyway.

Among his best runs this season was a stretch of 27 appearances from May 1 to July 11 when he allowed just two earned runs over a full 26 innings of work. That calculates to a ridiculous 0.69 ERA.

However, his worst run came just after the All-Star break when he surrendered a whopping 10 earned runs over six appearances and five full innings from July 18 to August 4.

To say that fans don’t know which Kenley to expect on a given night would be an understatement. Tuesday night’s narrow 4-3 victory against the Pirates was yet another example of Jansen walking the proverbial tightrope.

Without diving into any warranted stats, there are a few options for the Dodgers to utilize if they choose to do so. Blake Treinen can certainly close games, although Roberts claims he likes to use Treinen more as a setup man and to “put out fires.” Still not quite the same as his highest point of 2021, Corey Knebel might be another option. Both Joe Kelly and Brusdar Graterol seem to have closer qualities at times, but they can’t consistently deliver it on a nightly basis.

Maybe the team will turn to Julio Urias again when it needs the utmost dependability.

In the meantime, fans will keep a watchful eye on Jansen, wondering if he’ll ever reach the point when Roberts pulls his plug for the final time.

15 thoughts on “Can Dodgers Trust Kenley Jansen to Close During Critical 2021 Stretch Run?

  1. I do not think they have much of a choice. The 2020 hero out of the pen, Urias, is needed badly in the starting rotation. Until Kershaw is back, they have to make due with what they have, and that means Jansen. He did a high wire act last night, but he has been better since that awful 3 game stretch.

  2. In sports along with the stock market and other things, I believe in riding them while they are hot and jumping off when they begin to slow down even if you are a little early.
    Right now Knebel, Vesia, and Treinen are hot. Jansen is too erratic. The coaches have said it is a timing flaw in his mechanics that affects his control and velocity. While they continue to have a shot at catching the Giants I would not put Jansen in with a one-run game in the close-out inning. But Roberts is a horrible in-game pitching decision manager so he will blindly and adamantly continue to use Janse no matter the fallout.

    1. Check your facts there T. Jansen had not been scored on in his last 5 games before last night, and he had only given up 2 hits in those games. That is not erratic. That is pretty solid pitching. Also, since he blew the 3 saves, he has pretty much been dominant. He walked a tightrope last night. But he is still, and will still be the closer.

  3. In this day and age it’s always a flaw in the mechanics or a nagging injury. I’m getting sick of the ongoing excuses be it pitchers or batters. There’s ways a excuse for the player instead of taking responsibility.. In the old days it was a slump and they got over it.

      1. Yes. I guess inflammation, irritation and other nagging injuries (even hang nails) , are now very serious injuries compared to the old days. Science is wonderful I guess. I’ve said before if koufax, palmer, Gibson were told they only had to pitch 6 innings and would get an extra days rest, they’d probably have career Era’s of under one (1), and they’d still be pitching

      2. The point I was trying to make is Jansen has mechanical or timing issues but that is on him and the coaches. While I understand that he is attempting to get his mechanics in sync it is on him and the coaches that if he is not in sync don’t go out there and blow the save! We all have expected to perform and just go to work. Jansen is a multi-millionaire with extensive experience. He should never put his pride and drive to compete over the Team’s welfare. The Dodgers are in a pennant race. Every player needs to do whatever they can to help the team win the NL West. Listening to Nomar last night, whose insights I appreciate he was talking about how Pollock started attempting to make contact rather than slug the ball, and as a result, he is on a hitting streak barrelling up the ball. He talked about how he thought Bellinger could benefit from the same philosophy. He said Bellinger has power he needs to slow down and simply try to make contact, everything else will come after you hit the ball!!
        Great pitching by White. Watching him closely he has a very nice selection of breaking pitches and a good fastball. He helped the Dodger bullpen last night. He was able to spot his pitches.

  4. White could ultimately turn into our new Ross Stripling, a swing man with good stuff who can start or be used out of the pen. That’s a very valuable piece for any staff to have. In the meanwhile I would assume he is now our 5th starter, at least until Kershaw returns. Assuming Bauer does not return this year, Buehler, Scherzer, Urias, Kershaw for the first four and then Doc will have to decide if Price or White are #5 with the other one becoming the swing man.

    1. Correct Jeff. I think the chances of Bauer returning to the Dodgers are slim and none. This is simply a restraining order hearing. And it will drag into next week at least. If Pasadena Police and the DA decide to charge him, it will drag into the off season and a possible suspension without pay by the MLB is a very real possibility. MLBPA will fight it of course, but I see no way he can be ready to pitch before mid September if he gets out of this. And then there is the question of do his team mates even want him back.

  5. Well ESPN is reporting that the judge denied a permanent restraining order against Bauer and the temporary was removed. She proclaimed that Bauer does not pose a threat. She said some other stuff about the injuries. So, Bauer’s admin leave is up tomorrow. What does MLB and the Dodgers do? Since this obviously throws a huge kink in the Pasadena Polices case?

    1. I have no legal background whatsoever, but I’m not sure if denying a restraining order would have any effect on the Pasadena Police situation.

      The restraining order just says he has to stay away from her because he might harm her. Well, in both instances, she went to him, he didn’t stalk her.

      The police still might decide that he broke a law in his physical actions toward her.

      Meanwhile, I suppose MLB can just extend this thing until the Pasadena Police/D.A. decide one way or the other if they’re pressing charges. I guess we’ll know within the next couple days.

      1. The Bauer case was always going to come down to the Pasadena DA and if they charge Bauer or not. If Pasadena does not charge him then the MLB and Players Union must decide on how they treat his case. He has been suspended now for over a month. Does that count as time served?
        I think that if Pasadena does not charge Bauer the MLB and Players Union will fold up and it will be up to the Dodgers. I believe if that is the case Bauer pitches in September regardless of the feeling in the clubhouse.
        This is a strange case as Bauer is not denying he beat this woman. So what does Baseball decide to do? Bauer has a contract.

      2. Most likely. But if he has any brains, why would he ever get near her again?

      3. I never said that. But he is supposed to be one of the more cerebral players in the majors.

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