Kenley Jansen was dominant all season long and ended up having arguably one of the greatest seasons for a closer in MLB history.
Jansen came into this season with a lot of expectations after he signed a five year $80 million contract and its safe to say he was worth every penny this year. Jansen was a workhorse all season long for the Dodgers. He was far and away the best closer in the league and dominated the opposing competition all year. He led all closers with a 1.32 ERA, K/BB ratio at 15.6, tied Rockies Greg Holland for the NL lead in saves with 41, and had the best save percentage at 97.6 % due to only blowing one save this year.
Jansen’s great numbers were catapulted by a historic start this season. He set a record for most strikeouts without giving up a walk to start a season with 51. That start propelled Jansen to having an incredible K/BB ratio, and he ended up with 109 SO with only 7 BB in 68.1 IP. At the all-star break, Jansen had a 0.96 ERA, 0.558 WHIP, and 58 SO to only 2 BB. He couldn’t quite keep that pace and tailed off slightly in the second half but still ended up with some incredible numbers.
Jansen’s confidence seemed to be through the roof this year. He had already been one of the best closers in a baseball but was able to take his game to a whole new level this season. At 29 years old Jansen is in the middle of his prime now. He attacked batters all season long and wasn’t afraid of challenging anyone. He made the all-star team for his second consecutive season and finished 5th in CY Young voting, a rare feat for a reliever to finish that high. He went on to win the NL Hoffman reliever of the year award and the Sporting News reliever of the year award.
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Jansen had an all-time great regular season and continued to carry that over into the postseason. Over the last couple of years, the Dodgers have relied on Jansen to get more than three outs in the playoffs. Ever since that epic game five performance against the Nationals in the 2016 NLDS in which he got seven outs allowing no runs while Kershaw replaced him to get a save, Jansen has been counted on the pitch multiple innings. He was dominant in the NLDS and NLCS against the Diamondbacks and Cubs this year pitching a combined eight innings allowing zero earned runs with three saves.
Jansen ran into some trouble in the World Series against the Astros blowing a save in game 2 when he allowed a game-tying 2B against eventual series MVP George Springer and then gave up a go-ahead homerun the Marwin Gonzalez in the 10th. Although it wasn’t a save situation and the Dodgers won he did allow another home run to Alex Bergman in game four. Jansen took the loss in that incredible game five that went eleven innings when he allowed the go-ahead run in the 10th on a run-scoring single to Bergman.
Jansen did redeem himself however in game six to pitch two scoreless innings and get his 2nd save in the series to force a game seven. Overall, his World Series numbers were fine pitching 8.2 innings allowing 3 ER, but when you’re a closer, every run you allow is a big deal. He was two for three in saves opportunities with one loss. Fatigue might have played a factor in some of Jansen’s performances in the World Series.
The Dodgers asked him to go multiple innings in almost every appearance, and the wear and tear had to start getting to him. It also doesn’t help that he was facing the best offense in baseball this year. Despite some of Jansen’s World Series struggles he deserves an A+ grade for his efforts this year. There’s no way the Dodgers are even in the World Series without him. It was a year in which he became the all-time leader in saves in Dodger history passing Eric Gagne, and he has shown he could be great in the postseason as well. This is the year Jansen cemented himself as the greatest reliever in Dodgers history.