During this time in 2016, Kenley Jansen was finishing out a year in which he was one of the best closers in the game. That season saw Jansen dominate with a 1.83 ERA, a 0.67 WHIP, 104 strikeouts, and 47 saves (career-high) in 53 opportunities. Jansen used such a performance to cash in on the second-largest contract for a relief pitcher, trailing only Aroldis Chapman.
Fast forward 4 years and many fans have lost faith in the Curacao native to be the man to shut the door late in games. After another excellent follow-up season in 2017 in which he posted 1.32 ERA and 41 saves with 109 strikeouts, the Kenley we all knew suddenly disappeared. 2019 especially was a disaster for the former 3x All-star. He posted a career-worst 3.71 ERA and 8 blown saves. Even in games where he was able to come out with the save, Jansen struggled mightily. Of course, such troubles could be attributed to overuse over the years or his heart condition, but at times he’s looked utterly defeated.
Fans have voiced out their displeasure with the constant waves of emotions they feel when they see that bullpen door swing open, revealing the emergence of No. 74. Many have seemed to move on and have called for his removal as well as the indication of Brusdar Graterol as his replacement. While Graterol taking over as the future closer for the Dodgers is a real possibility and something I would love to eventually see, now isn’t the time. Graterol is still a rookie and only has 19.1 career innings under his belt. The Bazooka still needs time to gain much-needed experience as well as command of his pitches.
While the past two seasons have not been kind to Kenleyfornia, he seems to have been reborn this year after working with Driveline Baseball during the offseason. Over 9.1 innings pitched this season, he’s 6-6 in save opportunities with 12 strikeouts, a 0.96 ERA, and a 0.64 WHIP. Even his fastball and cutter have come back to life reaching up to 94 MPH. He’s looked like a resemblance of his former self lately including this punch-out of the great Mike Trout in extra innings.
Window shopping. pic.twitter.com/MpaA3RLxk6
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) August 16, 2020
When the converted catcher was asked why he re-signed with Los Angeles four years ago, he said:
“L.A.’s nice. L.A.’s great. L.A. gave me the opportunity. L.A. converted me when I failed as a catcher. I’m grateful about it and will never forget L.A. But at the same time, we’ll have to see what’s good for the family.”
Kenley didn’t give up on the team or the fans during his struggles, and neither should we. No pitcher ever remains dominant for long but Jansen has seemed to regain some of that ability that made him one of the best in the game.