Kenley Jansen
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

The Closer Days Of Kenley Jansen Are Dwindling

The Dodgers had big faith in Kenley Jansen. For years in fact. LA has trusted him in some very clutch moments for the team. In the mid-2010s, he was arguably the best closer in all of baseball. Batters couldn’t hit his cutter, and Jansen would easily get the last three outs of the ballgames. Unfortunately, those days are over, but it’s been a slow descent downward.

The first real moment Kenley Jansen showed to be less than perfect was the 2017 World Series versus the Houston Astros. The big right-hander dealt with tiredness, pitching every night. It came to a tipping point with his inability to hold leads or keep them from scoring runs. In Game Five, he allowed a walk-off hit to third baseman Alex Bregman. What makes this moment even sadder is that it’s commonly thought of as an example of the Astros cheating scandal. The 2017 regular season was the last year Jansen posted an ERA below two at 1.32. This was the peak of his climax as a pitcher.

It started getting rockier from there. Jansen lost velocity on his signature cutter. It used to sit at 93 miles per hour. In the last four years, it has dropped to as low as 89 miles per hour with far less cutting movement. Between 2018-2020, his ERA sits at 3.34 averaging only 27 saves a year.

Dave Roberts has received a ton of backlash in his role of putting Jansen in tight situations. In the 2020 World Series, Jansen blew a lead in Game Four. People sent him death threats as a result. Obviously, he is only human and baseball is only a game, but Dave Roberts now ponders what he should do in terms of the closer role. That was handed to Julio Urias for the rest of the series and it paid off. The Dodgers won their first championship in 32 years.

In the offseason, the Dodgers signed former 2017 All-Star Corey Knebel as a potential replacement if Jansen continued his inconsistency. Case in point, Jansen has already blown a save in 2021, and it looks like Knebel is the answer. Jansen will still have opportunities, but there is a precaution and pessimism with him.

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