MemberSeptember 9, 2020 at 3:05 pm
The idea of the “closer,” is, in my opinion, dumb. For that matter, the idea of any “role” in the bullpen is dumb. The only question that a manager should ask himself as he tries to set up the last 9-12 outs of a game is, “Who has the best chance to get this hitter out?” No closer, no eighth inning guy, no long reliever, just outs. Good, old fashioned, OUTS.
However, baseball has not really grasped this concept yet. The sport is still incredibly archaic when it comes to valuing stats like the pitcher Win/Loss record, RBI, and Saves. Thus, teams, even super analytically advanced ones, like the Dodgers, still have closers.
Kenley Jansen has been the Dodgers closer for the better part of a decade, and has been nothing short of superb for all but the last two years of that decade. While discussions arose of his being removed from the role during those years, it never really happened, but it seemed possible at times.
However, Jansen has found a resurgence in 2020, mainly due to increased movement in his trademark cutter, getting it almost back to where it was during his dominant 2016-17 seasons. He was the National League Reliever of the Month for July-August 2020 and has pitched to a 1.96 ERA with 25 strikeouts and 8 walks and a 0.982 WHIP in 18.1 innings this season. For those more interested in advanced statistics (as we all should be), Jansen is only in the 30th percentile for fastball velocity, but is in the 82nd for whiff, 89th for fastball spin, 90th for barrel %, the 95th for K%, the 99th for xwOBA and xERA, and a whopping 100% for exit velocity, xBA, xSLG, and hard hit %. In other words, he’s really, REALLY, good.
But let me say that again. Kenley Jansen, the man some people want removed from the closer role on the Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in baseball, LEADS ALL OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL in FOUR advanced pitching categories. What? You don’t want him pitching in the 9th?
Look, I know people have PTSD from some home runs in the World Series and home runs in general the past two seasons. But Jansen leads baseball in slugging and hard hit percentage, meaning it’s basically harder to homer off him than it is any other pitcher. That’s the guy I want running out of the bullpen to close games for my team. He’s the best reliever on the team (and almost in all of baseball), and by league standards, that means he should be the closer.
The only hole I can see in his resume is the walks, as his K/BB is a little over three, but almost none of those runners have scored. It’s how he pitches and it hasn’t been a problem. If Jansen puts guys on base because it means he isn’t letting them hit off him and then we win the game, fine by me.
There is no informed case for removing Kenley Jansen from the closer role on the Dodgers. It’s just stupid. People, myself included sometimes, only remember the game he blows because it’s so painful. Guess what. EVERY CLOSER BLOWS GAME SOMETIMES. It’s impossible not to. The consensus best closer ever, Mariano Rivera, blew 73 games over a 17 season career. That’s an average of a little more than 4 blown saves per season. The standards for closers are insane and unattainable when you look at the numbers.
Clearly, Jansen is the guy who should be pitching the most important innings any reliever pitches in the game in 2020. Those pitches are decidedly in the 9th inning. Thus, he clearly needs to be the closer. For informed fans, like I hope everybody reading this now is, it’s really not up for debate.
MemberSeptember 9, 2020 at 3:40 pm
FACTS ! So many Dodger fans suffer from “PTSD” from the playoffs. The fact is, though, Jansen has the best chance to get outs in high-leverage situations.
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