Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Tag: Kenley Jansen (Page 1 of 8)

Which starting pitchers should move into the bullpen for the Dodgers?

Kenley Jansen’s absence puts more pressure on the rest of the Dodger pitching staff to step up.
(Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

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.

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Previewing Brothers in Arms
Part Eight: The Bullpen

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.

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What the Dodgers’ qualifying offers to Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner mean

Los Angeles Dodgers

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.

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Kenley Jansen wins NL Reliever of the Year award

2016 NLCS Game 3---Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

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.

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Postseason star Clayton Kershaw shuts down Cubs to even NLCS

kershaw-pitching

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.

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Maeda to start NLCS Game 1, Kershaw for Game 2?

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Photos: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

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.

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Absolutely yes! Epic effort sends Dodgers to NLCS

turner-erupt

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.

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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.

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Dodgers ride homers, bullpen to NLDS Game 1 triumph

kershaw-pitching

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

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.

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Dodger bullpen runs deep heading into NLDS

Kenley Jansen and Joe Blanton (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Kenley Jansen and Joe Blanton (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Dodgers
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrián González, 1B
Josh Reddick, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Andrew Toles, LF
Clayton Kershaw, P
Nationals
Trea Turner, CF
Bryce Harper, RF
Jayson Werth, LF
Daniel Murphy, 2B
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
Danny Espinosa, SS
Pedro Severino, C
Max Scherzer P

By Jon Weisman

Any Dodger game that starts with Clayton Kershaw on the mound ideally ends with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.

But with seven relievers who have performed strongly down the stretch, the Dodgers can be as aggressive with their playoff bullpen as they have been in years.

Of the six relievers the Dodgers would use to preserve a lead, none had a September ERA higher than 2.00, and only Joe Blanton had a September WHIP above 1.03.

Kenley Jansen, of course, is the primary candidate for the ninth inning, and if necessary could be drawn into the eighth inning. This year, Jansen entered six games in the eighth and saved five of them.

In the set-up roles, the Dodgers can mix and match righties Joe Blanton, Pedro Báez and Josh Fields with lefties Grant Dayton and Luis Avilán, with Ross Stripling held back for extra innings.

That means even if Kershaw only goes six innings, the Dodgers could go batter-to-batter against a Washington starting lineup that goes R-L-R-L-R at the top.

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In case you missed it: Vinnys Vinnys everywhere

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Cubs at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrián González, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Josh Reddick, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Andrew Toles, LF
Julio Urías , P

By Jon Weisman

As part of Team Photo Day on Friday, the Dodgers indulged in a fantasy — that everyone in the world could be as wonderful as Vin Scully.

Of course, there really can only be one Vin Scully, as a close examination of the above image will reveal. (Click to enlarge.)

Here are some other recent items of note …

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Big hits betray Dodgers in loss to Phillies

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By Jon Weisman

Nothing reverses fortunes like baseball.

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Milestones for Gonzalez, Segedin in Dodger win

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Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 8.47.39 PMBy Jon Weisman

Adrian Gonzalez hit his 300th career home run, while Rob Segedin drove in a club-record (for an MLB debut) four runs, in the Dodgers’ 8-5 victory over Boston tonight.

It’s important to relay the note from the Dodgers’ public-relations department that the previous franchise mark for RBI in a debut of  three was set by Packy Rogers, on July 12, 1938 vs. the Giants.

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How the revitalized bullpen keyed Dodgers’ surge

San Diego Padres vs Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

In the Dodgers’ final inning before the All-Star Break, the best closer in the National League, Kenley Jansen, entered the game to protect a one-run lead against the fourth-place team in the National League West.

At that moment, the Dodger bullpen was several weeks into an extended resurgence that was forcing fans and media alike to unlearn everything it thought it knew about the team’s relievers. It progressed in stages, as if reversing the five stages of grief.

  • Hooray — they actually held a lead for once.
  • All right, I’ve stopped throwing things every time a reliever comes in.
  • I know this won’t last, but thank you for at least being adequate.
  • Hmm. Some of these guys are actually pretty good.
  • I don’t want to jinx this. But … wow.

Dodger bullpen failures have been branded into the collective memory of recent years, the scar tissue making it nearly impossible for most to feel the moments when the relievers were doing well — which, of course, was more often than the distraught and cynical could concede.

But by the time Jansen took the mound Sunday, the bullpen’s growing success was no longer possible to ignore.

Dodger relievers lead the Major Leagues with a 2.83 ERA. They lead the Major Leagues with a 1.02 WHIP.

In fact, as Dodger broadcaster Joe Davis pointed out, the Dodger bullpen’s opponents batting average of .192 is currently the lowest in modern baseball history. The team’s WHIP is the lowest in NL history.

That’s extraordinary. And that’s not wishcasting. That’s something that has been happening. The Dodger bullpen has become the opposite of an albatross. It’s a primary reason that, despite the “I Love Lucy” chocolate conveyor belt of injuries, that Los Angeles (51-40) is on a 91-win pace and once again a team to be reckoned with.

In terms of inherited runners stranded, the Dodgers were seventh among MLB teams at 72 percent — in the upper echelon but with room for improvement. The good news — the great news — is that the improvement is already underway.

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Pitching history for Dodger All-Stars

My beautiful picture

By Jon Weisman

Six years have passed since a Dodger closer pitched in the All-Star Game. Kenley Jansen gets to end that streak tonight.

Jansen, overdue for his first All-Star Game, might not get to pitch the final inning, so it’s more likely than not that Jonathan Broxton’s save in 2010 remains the most recent in the Midsummer Classic by a Dodger. Nevertheless, Jansen should get a chance to etch his name among the team’s 76 previous All-Star appearances.

Of course, Jansen could also become the first Dodger pitcher credited with an All-Star victory since Jerry Reuss in front of the 1980 hometown crowd in Los Angeles. Since then, three Dodgers have been the losing All-Star pitcher: Chan Ho Park (2001), Eric Gagne (2003) and Clayton Kershaw (2015). Dodger pitchers have a 6-6 record in 12 All-Star decisions.

Certainly, it was nowhere to go but up for the franchise after its ignominious All-Star debut via Van Lingle Mungo, who allowed four runs plus two inherited runs in a six-run fifth inning by the American League in 1934. Not that Mungo had it easy: He entered the game with Babe Ruth on second base, Lou Gehrig on first and Jimmie Foxx at the plate. Two walks, three singles and a double later, the AL had gone from trailing 4-2 to leading 8-4.

The most famous Dodger All-Star pitching performance belongs to Fernando Valenzuela, who from the fourth through sixth innings in 1986 faced 10 batters, retired nine and struck out the first five — Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken Jr., Jesse Barfield, Lou Whitaker and Teddy Higuera — all in a row. Kirby Puckett’s groundout was the first ball in play against Valenzuela, whose outing was marred only by a pop-fly Wade Boggs single in the sixth.

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Jansen, Kershaw, Seager named to NL All-Star team

All-Stars

By Jon Weisman

The wait is over for Kenley Jansen, and it never began for Corey Seager.

The Dodgers’ veteran closer and rookie shortstop have each been named to their first National League All-Star team, where they are joined at least in spirit by Clayton Kershaw — who despite his current back injury earned his sixth consecutive All-Star spot.

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