Kenley Jansen has been the Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer for almost a decade now, but he can be one of the more controversial players on the roster at times. He has some postseason blown saves on his resume, and some fans might overlook his outstanding career as a result.
Jansen has recorded a 2.42 ERA and 160 ERA+ in his 11-year stint as a Dodger, a career that has featured a nine-year stint as the unquestioned star of the bullpen. Even this year, Jansen has been shutting the door with such regularity that Los Angeles eschewed adding another relief pitcher of his caliber at the deadline.
Very few relief pitchers in history get the opportunity to stay in a closer role, especially on a team that is vying for championships year in and year out, for as long as Jansen has. His latest statistical achievement puts his name right next to one of the unquestioned best ever to do it.
Jansen recorded save No. 341 of his career against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday, putting him in a tie for 14th on the all-time list with Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers. When you’re mentioned in that tier as a relief pitcher, you know you’re in a very rarified tier.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen tied one of Rollie Fingers’ marks.
Fingers did pitch in an era where closers worked multiple innings to earned saves and starters usually pitched deeper into games, but the fact that Jansen is on this list is a testament to his durability and quality. The only active player with more saves is Craig Kimbrel, who is ninth all-time with 372 saves.
Jansen hasn’t been named to an All-Star team for his performance since 2018, and two ugly blown saves against the Giants destroyed his ERA for a period of time, but Jansen appears to be back on the right track. The Curacao-born standout has put up a 1.80 ERA since July 24 without a single blown save to his name.
The Dodgers have more starting pitching than they know what to do with, when healthy, but a bullpen led by Jansen and supplemented by the likes of Blake Treinen will be an invaluable X-factor that helps Los Angeles make yet another run in the postseason. Of course, it will be No. 74 trotting out of the bullpen in a high-leverage situation.
What Jansen has managed to do in his career on the strength of essentially one pitch is exemplary. How many contenders get blown up year after year in the postseason because they lack someone with the swing-and-miss stuff Jansen has to shut the door at the end of games?
Jansen is not perfect, but he’s been a well-above-average closer for almost a decade, and history will look back fondly on the stability he brought.