Dodgers: Kenley Jansen looking to take a page out of Joe Kelly’s book

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SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after getting the final out during the the ninth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park September 24, 2019 in San Diego, California. The Dodgers won 6-3. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after getting the final out during the the ninth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park September 24, 2019 in San Diego, California. The Dodgers won 6-3. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
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The Dodgers are hoping Kenley Jansen can orchestrate a postseason turnaround.  If Jansen needs any motivation, he can take a look at fellow reliever Joe Kelly.

To put it nicely, Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen has had plenty of trying times in 2019.  He currently has a career-worst ERA of 3.77 and a career-high eight blown saves.  Kenley’s 3.54 FIP confirms that he has not been plagued by much bad luck or poor defense, he is struggling according to the lofty standards he set for himself.

Through the first four-plus months of the 2019 season, Jansen had four blown saves and in August and September alone he has equaled that number with four blown save opportunities.  July and August were Kenley’s worst months as he posted ERA’s of 5.63 and 5.00.  In September he has been better, pitching to an ERA of 3.48 with one blown save in six save opportunities.

One interesting thing to note is the movement on Kenley Jansen’s cutter during September.  During his struggles of June to August, his cutter had around 4.1 inches of horizontal movement.  In September, his cutter has averaged 4.5 inches of horizontal movement which is right on par with his early-season averages when he pitched much better.

As mediocre as Jansen’s year has been compared to his previous seasons, there is still hope that he could go on a nice postseason run and turn things around when the postseason pressure intensifies.  The Dodgers saw a similar turnaround in person last year as Joe Kelly dominated them in the World Series and helped the Boston Red Sox win another World Series title.

Last year down the stretch, Joe Kelly was downright awful in the second half of the season.  His ERA’s in June, July, and September of last year were over 8.00.  In September, Kelly posted an ERA of 8.31 and the opposition hit .324 against him.  He also posted an ugly WHIP of 1.96.  Then he turned around and posted an ERA of 0.79 in the postseason and held opposing batters to a .186 average.

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Just like nobody saw that turnaround happening for Joe Kelly last October, Kenley Jansen is certainly capable of taking a page out of Joe Kelly’s book and putting together a solid postseason.  Admittedly the one difference between Jansen and Kelly is velocity.  Joe Kelly’s velocity never declined last year, he was still throwing in the high 90’s during his struggles just as he did earlier this season in his rough start.

Kenley Jansen can reach back at times and hit 94-95 miles per hour on the radar gun but he will stay in the low 90’s most of the time.  Jansen will need to exhibit pinpoint control during the postseason, especially if the Dodgers make it to a third straight World Series.  Kenley can live with 91-92 MPH cutters but he has to hit his spots which has been a problem this season.

Wednesday night Jansen was around 94-95 on a few cutters and most important, his location was spot on.  He painted the corners and when he missed he missed low and away.  If Kenley can carry this September momentum into the postseason he should give the Dodgers’ bullpen the boost it needs to be elite.

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The Dodgers are going to need Kenley Jansen to be effective if they are going to finally get over their World Series hump.  If the club can avoid overusing him like the past two World Series runs and limit him to one inning and not pitching back to back days, then Kenley can put together a solid October.

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