Dodgers: Kenley Jansen’s Performance is a Cause for Concern

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Kenley Jansen
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Kenley Jansen /

One bad outing to start the year and most people had suspicions that something was wrong. But, even though it was hard to watch, and the loss stung against the Giants, worrying about Kenley Jansen felt like an overreaction.

Game two was no better. His velocity down and the confidence of the fans was lower than his 89 mile per hour cutter, a pitch that was clocked at speeds of up to 95 miles per hour just weeks before in spring training. He gave up three runs in this game, blowing his first save, and worrying fans with more concrete evidence of a problem.

He said who cares.

Kenley Jansen, a prized possession of the Dodgers and their fans said “who cares. I’ll be fine.” Some took offense to this comment, how dare he say who cares to a fanbase that has done nothing but care for him, his performances, and his accolades. A fanbase that has stuck with him in outings good or bad. But, for the most part, they listened.

It seemed like an entire city and beyond took on a mentality of “if he’s not worried then why should I be worried” and for a few days it looked like that would pay off. His third, fourth, fifth, and sixth outings of the 2018 season were in fact, good. The velocity on his fastball was tracked at 92 miles per hour, not his best but better. And, if not better, it certainly was progress.

Progress was all everyone needed. The team was ice cold, they could not win games and for everyone to see their star closer, someone who has been a mainstay in this bullpen for two years shy of a decade, make progress, it was good enough.

Satisfied with his performances of which none were clear-cut, Kenley Jansen, dominance, the guard was let down. Down until performance number seven.

He entered the game and was greeted by a home run. Eric Hosmer took Kenley deep, very very deep.

He struck out Hunter Renfroe and for a lack of better ways to describe how that felt, it was great. A home run is ugly, sure, but, strikeouts from Jansen make him look all right.

The next batter, Christian Villanueva, flew out to center field and again it seemed like the isolated home run at the top of the inning was no big deal.

That was until he walked Franchy Cordero. He did not walk him on pitches that were close, they were all over the place. For a pitcher who walked just seven batters in the entire 2017 season, this was disheartening. This walk, number three on the year, was a mascot for Kenley’s start to the year.

Chase Headley came to the plate and after watching Cordero take second, he hit a long double to tie the game. The inning ended shortly thereafter but the concern left behind by this game did not go away like the night he said: “who cares.”

Dave Roberts was worried. After the game, he did not talk about the win he talked about Kenley. When his opening his statement began with “Kenley is not right” worry reasonably set in.

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Now for those of you holding out hope, that too is reasonable and probably logical. Jansen is an incredible talent and, usually, talent doesn’t just disappear. But, truth be told, being perturbed by the situation is just as fair.

Statistics on the season, do not help the nerves. Kenley has not allowed opposing hitters to bat higher than .200 against him since 2014. This year, batters are hitting just .14 shy of .300 against the tall righty.

Last season, Kenley blew one save on the whole year. This season? Two, in his first seven games.

His ERA is 8.10, a number that you cannot fairly use against him in such a small sample size. So, instead, we can look to ERA+, an adjusted earned run average.

His ERA+ this year is 48. That number is so low it should make you sick, not worried. An average pitcher has an ERA+ of 100, you do the math.

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So, should you still have confidence in a turnaround? Absolutely. Regardless of his slow start, Kenley is one of the most dominant relievers of all time. But, the cause for concern right now is legitimate, understood, and expected as Kenley Jansen is off, very off.