Having glanced a snapshot of the position players on the Opening Day roster for the Dodgers, let’s now turn to the pitchers.
Tag: Kenley Jansen (Page 1 of 9)
This post is not a retrospective of Kenley Jansen’s career. It is not a profound look at what will be his 17th and quite possibly final season in the Dodger organization. It is, above all, not an evaluation of his merits as a relief pitcher or “closer.”
I’m writing about nothing more than Kenley Jansen and the start of the 2021 regular season, beginning a week from Thursday on April Fool’s Day.
The first four days of the season will take place in Denver, a location where Jansen has had at least three heart scares relating to episodes of atrial fibrillation. He has since had an ablation procedure and taken other precautions to prevent recurrences, but as Jansen told J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News in April 2019, “it’s still a little nerve-wracking because it’s in the back of your mind somewhere.”
Let’s start by looking ahead at the Dodger pitching, before we look back.
It feels like 10 years since I last saw a Dodger game.
It feels like we’ve lived through an entire era of baseball in the four months and three days the Dodgers last walked off the field, heads bowed. It feels like we’ve aged a generation.
As I hibernated with other activities, I watched Dodger fans descend in to a deep well of anger and despair. The winter of our discontent barely seems adequate to describe it. Behind center field, offseason construction tore a hole in Dodger Stadium, delivered directly from Metaphors ‘R’ Us.
The bitterness of the Dodgers’ shocking Game 5 loss in the National League Division Series lingered like a slow-acting toxin, blackening the rose petals of fandom.
The unrequited pursuit of big-name talent, Gerrit Cole in particular, generated a sense of Kafkaesque imprisonment, blinding the reality that none of the Dodgers’ top rivals except the Yankees had improved their rosters. Then again, if the Yankees become the team to beat, isn’t that anguish enough?
Then the earth trembled, the ground beneath our feet cracked open and the void opened.
We have nearly reached the end of the ’10s, and though selections of the Dodgers’ all-decade team should probably wait until after the 2019 World Series, these few days of relative calm before the storm of the postseason seemed like a good time to reveal them. Nothing is likely to affect these choices between now and then (although I’m fascinated by the idea that something could).
Most challenging was having to deal with five legitimate candidates for the four openings at outfield/first base. Catcher was nearly a toss-up, and second base yielded its own surprise.
Here we go …
At the start of lunch today, I watched Kenley Jansen’s eighth-inning outing from Sunday’s Dodger game. It didn’t take long: only five minutes, because Jansen only needed 10 pitches. (Click the video above if you want to see.) The performance generated raves online and articles speculating whether this was a turning point for the somewhat beleaguered behemoth.
I’ve been mostly quiet online about the Dodger bullpen in general and Jansen in particular over the past 3 1/2 weeks since expending a ton of energy on the subjects. It was just too exhausting to keep revisiting. The essence of my take was that whether or not Jansen was the closer didn’t matter, because inevitably, he would be pitching critical postseason innings for the Dodgers even if they weren’t critical postseason ninth innings.
It didn’t mean Jansen hasn’t been struggling this year — he clearly has been, as I wrote in the first paragraph of that piece and repeated lower down. My main point was that the obsession with the “closer” tag was misplaced.
The focus needed to be less on Jansen’s role and more on his process.
For all the fuss over how much velocity Jansen has or hasn’t lost on his pitches, the central issue for him is his command. When Jansen is living on the edges, whether that pitch is just inside the strike zone or just outside of it, batters can’t resist swinging. And when those pitches have any movement at all, he thrives.
Things go wrong for Jansen not when a pitch is off by a mile or two per hour, but when the pitch is so far out of the zone that a batter can simply ignore it. That leads to walks, which in turn leave him little margin for error when the breaks don’t go his way, such as nights when his defense lets him down. Not to mention the fact that almost any baserunner is a threat to steal second against Jansen.
So let’s take a look at Sunday’s game, which he entered with the score tied at 2. Jansen retired the side in order on the aforementioned 10 pitches, but there were significant highs and lows within.
If Kenley Jansen is no longer the most dominant pitcher in the Dodger bullpen, then it follows that Kenley Jansen should no longer be the Dodgers’ closer.
Well, maybe. But the answer isn’t as simple as it would seem.
All summer long, the big question for the Dodger pitching staff has been which relievers would serve as the bridge to Kenley Jansen.
But with the distressing news that Jansen will be sidelined at least into September with an irregular heartbeat, we now have to ponder not only the bridge, but the destination.
You can read all the options the Dodgers have available in my recent review of the Dodger pitching staff, and Dustin Nosler of Dodgers Digest has a post up today looking specifically at who might close in Jansen’s absence.
My focus today is on the fact that it’s obvious that the Dodgers, who will soon have seven starting pitchers available with the impending returns of Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu from the disabled list, will need to move at least one starting pitcher to the bullpen — two if they don’t go with a six-man rotation.
Because we already used Clayton Kershaw’s birthday as an excuse to delve into Part 9 of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition (order now!), our series of previews ends on Part Eight: The Bullpen.
Niftily, the position of relief pitcher emerged with the Dodgers around the same time as the Dodger pitching tradition itself took root.
For nearly the entire history of the Dodgers before the end of World War II, when their pitching tradition was incubating, almost every pitcher they used in relief was a moonlighting starter. Only three players in Brooklyn history totaled more than 200 innings in relief before 1940, and two of those were swingmen — Watty Clark and Sherry Smith, who started more games than they relieved. The lone exception, Rube Ehrhardt, did mainly pitch out of the pen from 1926 to 1928, with modest effectiveness.
Starting with Hugh Casey in the 1940s, the game changed, and the Dodgers began transforming pitchers who weren’t cut out to be fulltime starters into pitchers who were primarily relievers, and later purely relievers. In the history of Dodger pitching, they play a supporting but key role, occasionally grabbing headlines—some heartbreaking, some thrilling.
By Jon Weisman
Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner, who became free agents at the end of the 2016 season, have received qualifying offers from the Dodgers.
Accepting a qualifying offer before the deadline of 2 p.m. November 14 guarantees the player a one-year contract for the 2017 season at $17.2 million. If declined, the Dodgers are still free to negotiate with the player, but would receive draft-pick compensation if either signs elsewhere.
By Jon Weisman
Kenley Jansen has won MLB’s 2016 Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award.
A panel of eight all-time great relievers — Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner — voted on the winners, ranking the top three in each league (based solely on regular-season performance), using a 5-3-1 weighted point system. The American League award is named in Rivera’s honor.
Jansen had a career-best and MLB-leading 0.67 WHIP along with a 1.83 ERA, his lowest since 2010, and he led all MLB relievers in wins above replacement (3.2). A first-time NL All-Star in 2016, he struck out more than 13 batters per nine innings for the seventh time in as many Major League seasons, and he is fourth in big-league history with a 13.9 K/9. His 9.5 K/BB ratio in 2016 led the NL.
By Jon Weisman
Surrounded by the bricks in Wrigley Field on a Sunday evening, Clayton Kershaw was a wall.
And no one blew him down.
Kershaw, kicking his October naysayers in the teeth with each inning he throws, combined with Kenley Jansen on a razor-thin 1-0 shutout, evening the National League Championship Series at one win for the Los Angeles Dodgers, one for the Chicago Cubs.
“It’s a good feeling,” Kershaw said in an on-field interview with Fox Sports 1 after the game. “I don’t know how to compare games or anything like that, but we needed this win tonight bad.”
This was the first 1-0 postseason victory by the Dodgers since Game 3 of the 1963 World Series (Don Drysdale three-hitter), and the first two-hit shutout in Dodger playoff history.
“Awesome. Watching Kersh, that shows he’s the best in the game,” Jansen said. “His stuff that he had, the way that he pitched against this team. He showed you again, he can just put this team on his back.”
The Dodgers will take home-field advantage in the NLCS back to Dodger Stadium for Games 3, 4 and 5, Tuesday through Thursday.
“Going back home, splitting this series in Chicago, we like where we’re at right now,” Kershaw said.
By Jon Weisman
Kenta Maeda will start Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday, Dave Roberts confirmed, with Clayton Kershaw looking likely to make Sunday’s Game 2 start.
Kershaw was in good shape after Thursday’s late-night bullpen session that climaxed with the final seven pitches of the Dodgers’ National League Division Series clincher over Washington.
By Jon Weisman
You are dry. You are bled dry, you are bone dry, you are a body crawling across the desert toward paradise, and not until the last reach of the arm, not until the last extension of the fingertip, not until the last grain of sand was behind you, did you know if you had reached a mirage or the Promised Land.
You open your eyes, and it’s paradise.
In the most epic Dodger playoff game in a generation, in the longest nine-inning playoff game in postseason history, the Dodgers found the buried treasure of a four-run seventh-inning rally, then watched Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw drag that golden chest to glory, defeating the Washington Nationals, 4-3, to advance to the National League Championship Series.
Jansen, whom Dave Roberts boldly put into the game with the tying run on base in the seventh inning, threw a career-high 51 pitches — four fewer than Dodger starter Rich Hill — to get the Dodgers within reach of victory.
Kershaw, the 19th Dodger to play in the game, got the final two outs, two nights after he threw 110 pitches in the Dodgers’ Game 4 victory — instantly recalling Orel Hershiser’s extra-inning save in the last playoff series the Dodgers came from behind to win, the 1988 NLCS.
[mlbvideo id=”1206140483″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]
Could not be prouder of Clayton!!
— Orel Hershiser (@OrelHershiser) October 14, 2016
The winning pitcher was none other than Julio Urías, who became the youngest pitcher in MLB playoff history to get the W.
It was the victory of a generation. It was a victory that seemed to take a generation.
By Jon Weisman
Clayton Kershaw didn’t have his best stuff, not by a longshot. But he had some of his best guile, some his best perseverance and all of his best bullpen.
With four Dodger relievers throwing four shutout innings, the Dodgers survived a nail-biting, seat-squirming Game 1 in the National League Division Series, edging the Washington Nationals, 4-3.
Kershaw lasted five innings, punching out seven batters but bobbing and weaving through three runs on nine baserunners. Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton, Pedro Báez and Kenley Jansen worked the back end, to make a Dodger offense led by homers by Corey Seager and Justin Turner stand up.