Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts is in a tough situation with LA’s closer situation. What can he do with Kenley Jansen struggling?
Ready or not, the regular season is coming to an end in just over a week. For the Dodgers, some players are raring to go but a few others still need to get back on track prior to embarking on another World Series run. One of those players still struggling is Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen who blew another save on Wednesday night.
While Jansen received no favors from the home plate umpire, who flinched and missed a strike three call, it was still Jansen’s fault for issuing multiple walks. It was Kenley’s first hiccup in September after pitching well in three consecutive outings prior to Wednesday night. Now the issue for Dave Roberts, is what does he do with the closer role?
If the Dodgers had another experienced closer on the roster it would be an easier decision but they do not. Pedro Baez has been one of LA’s best relievers this season but he also notched his first career save this year. The ninth inning is a different animal, so there is no telling how Petey would handle the closer role even as a self-labeled Baez stan, that is the truth.
Then there is Joe Kelly who parlayed a dominant 2018 postseason into a three-year contract with the Dodgers. He had a rocky start of his own before turning his season around. In September, Kelly has had his own struggles allowing three hits and two earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work.
Joe has always had trouble staying consistent throughout his career. He can look unhittable at times and then other times he looks like he did at the beginning of this season. If the Dodgers move Jansen out of the closer role they need someone who can be more consistent in the ninth inning.
Kelly pitched just 3 2/3 in the 2016 postseason and 2 2/3 innings in the 2017 postseason as a reliever so last year is the biggest reliever playoff sample size that there is for Joe. Putting him in the closer role would still be a roll of the dice and hoping that he replicates his 2018 postseason. Despite his second-half turnaround, he still profiles best as a setup man for the closer role.
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So what should Dave Roberts do with the closer situation? I think he should keep Jansen as the closer for the remainder of the season and see how he pitches. Perhaps Wednesday night was his one blow up for the month and he will pitch as well as he did in his previous three outings. If Jansen continues to struggle in the last week plus of games, then and only then should Dave Roberts pull the plug on Jansen as the closer.
On AM 570, former Dodger GM Ned Colletti mentioned that removing Jansen from the closer role could be too much to overcome for the closer’s ego. Ned mentioned he would count Kenley out for the rest of the season if that occurred. To avoid that, Kenley Jansen should get one final chance to get through the rest of the schedule without any more blown saves or blow up innings.
Regardless of how he pitches from here on out, Dave Roberts needs to see the limitations that are now on his former workhorse closer. Kenley should not be used for more than three outs or on back to back outings. Match-ups should be played as the Red Sox did in 2018 with Craig Kimbrel struggling in the postseason.
Kenley Jansen also needs to be honest with the coaching staff and more importantly Dave Roberts. If Kenley feels he just doesn’t have it in the bullpen, he should let the team know rather than put a late-inning lead in jeopardy.
Jansen said he didn’t have it Wednesday night, but he should’ve been upfront with the coaching staff as soon as he felt that. Just as Dave Roberts continues to put his trust in Jansen righting the ship, Kenley should reward that trust by letting Roberts or bullpen coach Mark Prior know when he feels he “doesn’t have it” for a particular night.