A lot of the Dodgers’ success in 2020 will depend on the effectiveness of Kenley Jansen. It’s really no secret that when he struggles, winning meaningful games down the stretch becomes a lot more difficult for Los Angeles.
Since 2017, Jansen has been sort of unpredictable. His walk rate doubled and the velocity on his devastating cutter took a die. But in Spring Training this year, Kenley looked like he had changed. The ball was coming better out of his hand, he was hitting his locations, and his cutter was actually cutting. Then, the Dodgers had to shut it down with the rest of baseball during a pandemic.
Not only did baseball shut down, but when it returned, Kenley tested positive for COVID-19. That meant he had to wait until this past week to start getting into games, putting him well behind other relievers. But Jansen absolutely dominated when he was able to finally face hitters, making some of his teammates look silly. Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts talked about his success as well as his adjustments.
The characteristics of his[Kenley’s] cutter is all that we care about. It’s not about the velocity of the cut fastball. When he’s throwing and it’s doing what it’s supposed to do, he’s going to get Major League hitters out. So that’s kind of what we want to stress to Kenley as far as pitch command, using his mix. But again the cutter characteristics are most important.
a few of Kenley’s adjustments to his mechanics and velocity can probably be attributed to a trip to Driveline Baseball Academy this offseason. But as Roberts says, the real progress came when Jansen and the Dodgers stopped making velocity the focal point.
I think a little bit there was a little too much concern on velocity as opposed to throwing the baseball the right way and letting the hitter’s swing dictate what you do and don’t need to do. When he’s throwing the baseball right, and it’s moving the way it’s supposed to move, he’s as good as anybody.
If the Dodgers can get 2017 Kenley Jansen back, a World Series title will be that much closer to returning to Los Angeles.