Dodgers manager Dave Roberts feels better about Kenley Jansen on Thursday, but only a little.
Dodgers fans are well aware of what the Kenley Jansen Experience entails by now.
The cutter. You’re getting the cutter. And whether you can hit it is likely determined by how often you’ve seen it over your past few days.
But Jansen has trended down in effectiveness over the past few seasons, with the use of his signature pitch slightly diminishing as his confidence has sunk. It’s dipped to around 75% in recent seasons, but in Wednesday night’s ninth inning in the Dodgers’ Game 1 postseason opener, Jansen somehow threw only 50% cutters in a shaky outing featuring less-than-impressive velocity.
Ultimately, he grinned and bared it, walking one and striking out Christian Yelich to end the game with an accident up and away. But with 24 hours to examine those 16 pitches, manager Dave Roberts feels like he enjoyed the rewatch more than the initial viewing.
We understand Roberts has to stand by his man, especially when the results were technically there, but we’re not sure how the video tape would make anyone more confident than the live action.
Jansen’s eight cutters averaged just over 88 MPH, and he certainly lucked out facing a down-on-his-luck and anxious Yelich.
Sure, you can’t pull the trigger on a replacement when a fairly non-sweaty save has been recorded, and Roberts had to come out and confirm on Thursday that his long-time closer would be fully operational for the time being. There was no other option.
But Jansen, already experiencing the downslope of his career (quite likely), got a slow start to the 2020 season after battling COVID-19, and has looked just as inconsistent in recent weeks as he did in a tepid 2019.
Hopefully, there won’t come a time when Roberts has to walk back his endorsement.