Kenley Jansen finished second in the National League with 38 saves, but a two-week stint on the DL put his season, and potentially career, in jeopardy.
What went right
Through the first four-and-a-half months, Jansen was yet again one of the best closers in all of baseball. He had an ERA of 2.15 and had the most saves in the National League. The big man had 61 strikeouts in 54 1⁄3 innings, and opponents were hitting just .174.
After giving up three homers in his first seven appearances, Jansen was practically unhittable over the next few months, giving up just one in his next 35 games. He had a 17-game stretch where he allowed only one run, struck out 21, and only allowed seven hits.
Jansen’s great first-half landed him on the All-Star team for the third season in a row.
What went wrong
In early August, Jansen was sent back home to Los Angeles while the team was in Colorado. Before the series-opener, Jansen was experiencing an irregular heartbeat.
“Anytime you’re talking about the heart and irregular heartbeat, you’ve got to be very careful with it,” manager Dave Roberts said. “You’re talking about altitude [in Denver]. That’s why we want to be proactive and get him back [to Los Angeles.]”
It was initially ruled that Jansen would be sidelined four-to-six weeks, but he had a speedy recovery, coming back two weeks later.
“I’m not thinking of my heart. If it goes, it goes,” Jansen said upon his return. “I’m ready to go. Ain’t no time here. We’re two games back. Thirty-seven games left, we’ve got to go. I don’t need to be babied. I’m not going to be babied. A four-out save, three-out save, five-out save, I’m ready.”
Jansen had a rough return, allowing two homers and three hits in his first outing since the DL stint. He allowed runs in his next three outings, seeing his ERA rise from 2.15 to 3.09 in just one week. Overall, Jansen allowed 13 homers on the season, which was more than double the amount of his previous career high of six.
He returned to his normal self during September, re-establishing himself as one of the best closers in the game.
But struggles would again find Jansen in the World Series, blowing the lead in both games 3 and 4. Luckily for LA, they won game 3 in a record-breaking 18-inning affair. The same couldn’t be said for game 4 however.
With a one-run lead in the eighth, Jansen allowed a home run to Steve Pearce, tying the game. Ultimately, LA would drop game 4, and the World Series.
Stats: 1-5, 3.01 ERA, 39 Saves, 82 SO, 0.99 WHIP
Salary: $10 million
Game of the year
More like stretch of the year. From April 21 until May 31, Jansen was one of the best relievers in baseball. During the stretch, Jansen owned an ERA of 0.50, held opponents to a .151 average, and struck out 21. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was better than four-to-one.
Jansen has eight years and 73 days of service time. He is signed through 2021, but can opt-out of his contract at the end of the 2019 season.