Our next daily Dodgers 2016 season review is of closer Kenley Jansen, one of the truly elite relief pitchers in baseball.
What went right
Jansen put up a 1.83 ERA, his best mark since 2010 (when he pitched just 27 innings), and put up the best FIP (1.44) of his career by far, striking out 104 against only 11 walks.
Opposing batters hit just .150/.194/.252, the second-lowest OPS allowed (.446) — behind only Orioles closer Zach Britton — among all MLB pitchers who faced at least 65 batters in 2016.
In 2016, Jansen saved a career-high 47 games and became the Dodgers’ all-time leader in both saves (189) and strikeouts by a relief pitcher (632).
Jansen converted all 33 save attempts in 2016 when he entered with a two-run lead or greater. He has converted 62 straight such save opportunities in the regular season, with the last misstep coming on Sept. 3, 2014 against Washington.
He made his first All-Star team in 2016, and struck out his only batter faced in the game in San Diego. After the season, Jansen was named the closer on the Sporting News 2016 National League All-Star team.
Jansen reached a new level in the postseason, when manager Dave Roberts deployed him more like an old-school fireman than a modern closer. Jansen had six games in which he pitched longer than one inning during the regular season, followed by five such outings in the playoffs.
Jansen in the postseason recorded the longest save of his career (2 innings in Game 2 of the NLCS), threw his most pitches in a game (51 in 2⅓ innings in Game 5 of the NLDS), and had his longest outing (3 innings in Game 6 of the NLCS).
In the NLCS, the Cubs were just 1-for-20 with 10 strikeouts against Jansen, and the only batter to reach base was on a shattered-bat infield single.
What went wrong
Jansen did blow a career-high six saves, though his 88.7% conversion rate was fine, and matched his career rate*. All six blown saves were in games Jansen entered with a one-run lead, including two games with the potential tying run already in scoring position.
*Jansen has 189 saves and 25 blown saves in his career, though one of the blown saves came in September 2012, a game in which he entered to start the eighth inning. This was after Jansen missed time with an irregular heartbeat and Brandon League took over as closer. So that one blown save wasn’t a real blown save since it wasn’t an actual save opportunity for Jansen. So Jansen’s real save conversion rate is 88.7% (189 saves, 24 blown saves).
But even including that extra blown save, Jansen’s 88.3% career rate ranks ninth among the 26 pitchers with at least 100 saves from 2010-16.
Jansen had the audacity to allow five runs in August, his only month during the regular season allowing more than two runs.
Stats: 1.83 ERA, 1.44 FIP in 71 games, 47 saves, 104 K, 11 BB, 68⅔ IP
Salary: $10.65 million
Game of the year
Even though it wasn’t his most dominant outing — he walked four and allowed a hit — Game 5 of the NLDS was the most legendary for Jansen, who gutted through three different innings, recording more outs (seven) than he ever had before while protecting a one-run lead in an elimination game. In his fourth appearance in five games in the series, Jansen threw 51 pitches and struck out four before giving way to Clayton Kershaw in the ninth in what will be remembered as one of the most memorable games in Dodgers postseason history.
Jansen will be a free agent after the World Series, and near the very top of the market.