After a 2020 season where Kenley Jansen lost his job as the Los Angeles Dodgers closer during the postseason, he rebounded in a big way this year and carried it into October.
During the season, Jansen posted his lowest ERA (2.22) and highest WAR (1.8) since 2017, when he was arguably the best reliever in baseball. Jansen has thrown six innings so far during the postseason and is yet to allow a run.
Jansen allowed five runs (four earned) in seven innings during the playoffs last year.
“I think he’s been able to focus on things that are important and that can help you instead of a little bit in the past, which I think we’re all guilty of at times,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
“The scope gets a little bit more broad and the noise gets a little bit more loud and invasive. So now I think that this whole year, especially after that little stumble he had after the break, he’s just really harnessed that focus and this is as good as I’ve seen Kenley Jansen pitch in my time here with the Dodgers.”
Now that he is back to pitching like a top-tier closer, Jansen has mentioned he wants to throw the final out of the World Series, and Roberts wants that for him too.
“Personally it means a lot, certainly. Looking back a year ago, I don’t think that he felt the confidence that he feels now,” Roberts said. “I think that he really understands the fact that we want him to throw the last pitch of 2021, but up to that point, he’s available to help us win that particular night.
“So he’s our closer, but there’s certain times that I’m going to go to him in a different spot and he’s embraced that.”
For Jansen, his bounce-back campaign has also come at a perfect time as he will become a free agent this winter. Multiple teams are expected to be in need of a closer, which could make for a robust market.
Jansen attributes success to no longer being ‘stubborn
After struggling for two seasons, Jansen said he was able to learn a lot, which has helped him get back to a dominant form as self-admitted stubbornness no longer is an issue.
“You learn from when you have to deal with adversity and knowing that I didn’t have my best two years the last couple of years, and you learn,” Jansen said after struggling with inconsistencies in the previous two seasons.
“You try to make sure and see what’s going on. Best pitch is my cutter, and I try to shape that and make it back to what it is and not even that, just continue to develop my two-seamer and slider. And now you just know situations how have you to use it better now.
“So that’s what I feel like. I’m a more experienced pitcher now instead of being stubborn out there and just die with one pitch.”
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