Working as a setup man for a punchline of a .500 team like the Dodgers, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. Even when you’re 6’6 and recently missed time with Cardiac Arrhythmia, relief pitchers who ply their trade late at night are often missed, even by aficionadi of such artists like myself.
Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers demands your attention. Not him so much, though I’m sure he’s a perfectly adequate human being from Curacao. Kenley Jansen’s strikeout numbers are the sort of thing to reach off the screen and throttle you, screaming “THIS ISN’T NORMAL” at extreme volumes.
Because “extreme volume” is a great way to describe the manner in which Jansen piles up the Ks. How extreme? Try more than 15 per 9 innings this year, including nearly SIXTY-FOUR percent of the batters to face Jansen in September. 64%! That works out to more than 22 K/9 this month. Wow.
The craziest part of Jansen’s month of September is the complete lack of walks to accompany this overwhelming number of strikeouts. How does one walk grab you?
One walk, twenty-three strikeouts, thirty-six batters faced. 36 BF, 23 K, 1 BB. OMG.
His FIP after last night? -1.27. That’s right: Kenley Jansen broke the formula Sports Illustrated featured on its cover.
Last night, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called on Jansen in a big spot versus the
hatedhealthily disliked Giants. Staff ace and general do-gooder Clayton Kershaw bested his ideological foil Tim Lincecum with 7 innings of shutdown ball to Lincecum’s pathetic 7 innings and 2 runs allowed.
Kershaw faltered in the top of the 8th, surrendering a home run to catcher Chris Stewart and then walking pinch-hitter Pat Burrell and leadoff man Andres Torres to put the game — not to mention his mythical 20th victory — in serious jeopardy.
With switch-hitters Pablo Sandoval and Carlos Beltran looming, Mattingly carefully poured over the splits of each hitter, electing to play the percen…nah, he just called on the giant who strikes everybody out.
Which is exactly what Kenley Jansen did. He struck out Sandoval on three pitches while notorious clutch maniac Carlos Beltran lasted all of four. Door closed. Rally snuffed. Jansen’s work is finished for another night.
As you might expect, Jansen is a control pitcher, relying on his control and guile to ensure batters continue swinging and missing 16% of his pitches for the season, 22% in his magical month of September. Remember: league average for whiffs is around 8.5%
Jansen’s stuff is predictably nasty. He throws a fastball that cuts a little around 95 mph and a slider that comes in considerably slower. In the last month, Jansen’s only gone to the slider around 9% of the time, throwing the cutter almost exclusively. Which is to say: Kenley Jansen is the new Mariano Rivera.
Hyperbole? Of course. But Jansen is on track to join some pretty elite company of relief pitchers able to strikeout more than 15 per 9 innings. With his heart condition under control, the Dodgers have an amazing bullpen arm for the immediate future, until Mattingly uses him four times in five days, rendering his arm a limp masses of exhausted ligaments forever. That’s just the way the Dodgers do things now.