Kenley Jansen in 1-run, 2-run & 3-run save situations

Brendon Thorne

Adding some context to Jansen's early 2014.

In 2013, Kenley Jansen converted his first save opportunity with a one-run lead, then blew his next two one-run leads in the ninth inning.

In 2014, Jansen converted his first save opportunity with a one-run lead, then blew his next two one-run leads in the ninth.

Last year Jansen was able to shake it off and put up one of the great relief seasons in Dodgers history, with a 1.88 ERA to go with 111 strikeouts and just 18 walks.

In 2013 Jansen converted 28 of 32 save opportunities, but one of his four blown saves came in the eighth inning on May 18 in Atlanta - before he was named closer - an appearance that was never really a save opportunity to begin with.

Jansen pitched poorly in that outing, allowing a pair of home runs to get hung with the loss, but in reality Jansen was asked to close 31 games (not 32). Here is a breakdown of his real save situations in 2013:

Situation Saves Blown IP H R ER HR BB K BA/OBP/SLG BABIP
1-run lead 10 3 13⅓ 8 4 4 1 1 22 .170/.188/.298 .292
2-run lead 12 0 11⅔ 5 1 1 0 1 21 .122/.143/.146 .250
3-run lead 6 0 6 2 2 2 1 3 4 .143/.250/.286 .125

Jansen was pretty great in just about every situation, and it's hard to find fault with striking out 22 of 48 batters faced in one-run save situations with just one walk. But sometimes that's just the nature of a one-run lead.

Last year, Joe Posnanski looked at team's winning percentages with leads entering the ninth inning, which has been pretty stable over time:

Winning percentages when team leads by three runs going into the ninth inning:

1960s: .974
1970s: .977
1980s: .975
1990s: .963
2000s: .976

You will note that the lowest win percentage is in the 1990s. This is a big theme. Yes, teams obviously were using closers in the 1990s, but teams were also scoring runs at a historic rate.

Winning percentages when team leads by two runs going into the ninth inning:

1960s: .930
1970s: .925
1980s: .941
1990s: .936
2000s: .931

The numbers are kind of all over the place — but as you can see the winning percentage in the 2000s, with closers and setup-men and all that, almost precisely matches the winning percentage of the 1960s, when runs were hard to come by and starters often finished what they started. I’m not sure what you can learn from this. Now, to the big one.

WInning percentages when team leads by one run going into the ninth inning:

1960s: .844
1970s: .850
1980s: .852
1990s: .846
2000s: .848

And … yeah, the stat kind of pops like wet firecrackers. Not a lot to see here. Apparently, the win percentage when teams are up one entering the ninth leading doesn’t change much no matter what managers do. It was .850 in the 1970s. It was .848 in the 2000s.

The Dodgers happened to win all three of Jansen's ninth inning blown saves last year. So far this year, the Dodgers have won one of his two blown saves.

Situation Saves Blown IP H R ER HR BB K BA/OBP/SLG BABIP
1-run lead 1 2 3 6 2 2 0 2 5 .429/.500/.571 .667
2-run lead 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000/.143/.000 .000
3-run lead 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000/.000/.000 ----

I'm not really trying to defend Jansen here, though it's hard to say two out of every three batted balls in play will continue to find holes. More to the point, one-run leads tend to disappear more often, no matter who is on the mound. It's just the nature of the beast.

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