2018 Dodgers Player Reviews: Kenley Jansen

Our 2018 Dodgers player review series rolls onward – and what kind of series would it be if we didn’t get to closer Kenley Jansen. Coming out in the ninth inning to ‘California Love’ by Tupac Shakur has become a defining moment of the experience that a game at Chavez Ravine brings.

The Dodgers have the perfect closer for SoCal – but was he perfect in 2018? We take a look back and examine the season that was for Kenleys.

Early Season Drop In Velocity

When the 2018 season kicked off – Jansen was in a funk. Whether it was the hard workload in the 2017 World Series or taking time off in Spring Training – a degree of ring rust showed. Moreover, this was displayed in his drop in cutter velocity.


Jansen had a 5.59 ERA at the end of April and just three saves. As the team struggled, Jansen ran perpendicular to the team’s performance. Then in May, business picked up and got back to normal a bit. As the velocity rose – Jansen’s K to BB ratio also improved. Hitters wouldn’t hit above .167 off him again in a calendar month until August. This of course is when another chapter of his season seemed to unravel.

Heart Issues

In early August, Jansen was sidelined with a reoccurring heart condition. First there were concerns that Jansen may not pitch again for the Dodgers all season. The team was very quiet about his status moving forward – as any organization would be with an athlete who has a heart problem. Those times were scary times, but Jansen would rise and fight again for his squad.

Jansen appeared in eight games in August and allowed opposing hitters a .343 batting average. He was not the same man. His ERA for the month was a season-high 7.88, and just like April he recorded three saves. The big man was a shell of the closer we had came to know.

September Strength

Jansen got his legs back underneath him – and finished 12 games in the season’s final month (five saves). He recorded 15 strikeouts in 12.1 innings pitched, and seemed to regain the dominance of his former self. Jansen didn’t allow a run in six appearances in the NLDS and NLCS in route to the World Series. Ultimately, he met his match in the final series of the year against Boston; allowing two home runs in four innings. Still, Jansen had overcome a lot of adversity to even get to that point.

2019 Outlook

Jansen will again be the incumbent closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2019. However, there are some signs that his bosses believe he could use a stablemate in certain situations. New free agent signing Joe Kelly’s contract is incentive-laden, oozing with games finished possibilities. Perhaps Jansen would be more effective in certain spots – and not appearing in as many non-save opportunities even when the spot calls for a relief ace. That said – entering his age-31 season – there aren’t many apparent signs of him slowing down. It is fair to expect another big season out of Jansen as he continues to cement himself as one of the greatest Dodgers relievers of all time.

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  1. Jansen was never right the entire year. His velocity and control were symptoms of some physical issue I believe. He did not pitch much in the Spring and never showed his usual dominance.
    The key component to me was his lack of control. If you watched the catcher’s target and where he was throwing he rarely hit his spots which is a certain way to get hit no matter how good your pitch quality.

    As he is mostly a one pitch pitcher he must have location and velocity and he controlled neither last year as shown by your velocity chart.

    Hopefully he and Kershaw can recover some velocity. Maddox and today Greinke illustrate that velocity is not as important if control can be pinpoint. Kershaw was very hittable if the slider was not precisely in the right zone, Jansen the same with his cutter.

    1. Great comment. I am hopeful that having a second option develop – whether by plan or it just happens – takes place to have Jansen his most effective self. Maybe there are three guys in the ninth coming up that someone else can do a better job getting out. If that happens, I hope Kenleys handles it with class.

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