Apr 20, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA: Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen (74) reacts to striking out the side in the ninth inning of the Dodgers 4-1 win over Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Kenley is Still Great, But Lack Of Pitch Control, Movement, And Overuse Have Plagued Him This Year

Blown saves are one of the most irritating things in Baseball. They rank right up there with allowing first inning runs and bunting. They’re deplorable. They sure do bring out the worst in people. However let’s all give Kenley Jansen a break here. I think we can all take a deep breath, it’s not the end of the world. There’s a reason Kenley has stunk this year, and it’s not his fault. I’ll get to him in a minute.

The blown game from Friday evening has put everyone into a foul mood. Hey I’m in one too, after all I had to recap that nasty affair last night. Everything seemed to be going just peachy for the Dodgers. The club had won seven of their last ten games. Clayton Kershaw had just pitched a no-hitter, and the club was playing a very poor hitting club in the Padres. The Giants had lost their sixth straight game, (hehehehehe), and it looked like for all intensive purposes that the Dodgers were going to move within three games of first place. The Boys in Blue had a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. I even had nothing more to complain about on Twitter. All appeared right with the world. Then Kenley Jansen remembered that he’s not good this year. (poor guy)

Before I get into Kenley’s problems, let’s all remember that it’s not all Kenley’s fault. The Dodgers seem to make a boatload of mistakes every game. We can’t absolve Dan Haren’s mediocre start. He’s had a long string of them since the beginning of the season. We can’t forget about Haren giving up two home runs to Seth Smith, and not being able to get through the sixth inning.

We also can’t forget about the busted hit and run play in the first inning that erased Hanley Ramirez from the base paths when Yasiel Puig failed to make contact. Hanley would have probably scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s double. Although Gonzo scored himself on Matt Kemp’s RBI single. Hindsight is 20/20 I guess, but still. Then of course the offense shut down after the fifth frame. Because five runs should be enough against the lousy Padres, don’t you know. Oh but we should all know by now, that even five runs is not enough with the Dodger bullpen.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

But everything seemed to be going swimmingly for the Dodgers up until that awful ninth inning. J.P. Howell was his usual effective self. Note to Mattingly, start utilizing Howell more often. He’s one of the few reliable relievers we have.

Next Brandon League came in and did his job, throwing a scoreless frame. Huh, the Dodgers were certainly cruising along. Even Brian Wilson was somehow able to get out of his inning without allowing anything. Although he still looked like garbage, and the Dodger defense helped him out by making a couple of tough plays look easy. The Padres hit some hard balls in the eighth inning. But still, even Wilson was able to get out of his inning without being scored upon.

It all looked great. Until it wasn’t. The Dodgers had this game in the bag. This is how Kenley’s ninth inning went. Single, Double, Double, Sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly. Game over. So why is Kenley such garbage now?

Not exactly though. Ethier was unable to make a play on one of the doubles that he probably should have made. To be fair it was a tough play, and a well hit ball. But check out Kenley’s movement, or lack thereof on these pitches.

Here’s one that’s flat with no movement.

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The Dodgers have overused him to the point where he is not able to get that great movement on his cutter that made him so tough to hit since his first season in 2010. Kenley’s pitches were all over the place last night. All of them were up in the strike zone, and very hittable. Here’s another one that was left just hanging over the meaty part of the plate. Kenley was ahead 0-2 on this sequence. When was the last time you saw Kenley throw his slider? The 2013 Kenley would have blown this guy away with two strikes.

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That’s the problem, besides the fact that Kenley is on pace to throw in about 130 games this year. The basic problem with Kenley is his lack of movement and control has left him hittable. He’s just allowing too many hits this year. Take a look.

2013 Kenley- 1.88 ERA, 0.861 WHIP, 5.6 hits per nine, 2.1 BB/9, 13.0 whiff per nine.  111 SO/ 18 BB

2014 Kenley- 4.55 ERA 1.449 WHIP,  9.7 hits per nine, 3.3 BB/9 14.9 whiff per nine.  49 SO/11 BB

Kenley is actually whiffing batters at a higher rate this year. But look at the hits and walks he’s allowed this year. He’s allowing over nine hits per nine innings, and he’s already given up 11 walks. Last year he walked just 18 the whole season. This is not the Kenley we know. Kenley does not allow this many hits.

But if you look at his FIP, which is 2.21, it raises the question that Kenley may have also been pitching into some bad luck this year too. Kenley has technically only blown three games this year anyways. Most of the time he’s still pretty awesome. And that’s like 92% of the time.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The problem with Kenley is he’s just been over worked. He needs to not pitch for like two weeks. Last year he pitched in 75 games, and the year before that he pitched in 65 games. This year he’s pitched in 33 games already. That’s half of the Dodgers games in 2014. That means he’s on pace to pitch in 85 games this year. It’s like Mike Marshall or something. No not the outfielder that played in the 1981 and 1988 World Series. I’m talking about the reliever from the 1970’s that won the 1974 NL Cy Young award. He pitched in 106 games that year and threw 208 innings. Not surprisingly he blew out his arm after that and never was quite the same.

We don’t want that to happen to Kenley, or we would be screwed. Kenley is still a great pitcher, and no the Dodgers should not even be discussing using anyone else in the closer role. It’s not Kenley’s fault he’s been overworked to the point of not being effective. That’s on Don Mattingly and the coaching staff.

You know the old saying, you can only go to the well so many times before it dries up. Well, the well may have begun to dry up on poor Kenley. We better wish upon a wishing well that doesn’t happen. Because the Dodgers won’t go anywhere without a healthy, and effective Kenley Jansen. The guy just needs some time off. Let’s give him a break.

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