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Kenley Jansen is no longer the answer

The story behind his steady decline and how the Dodgers should respond

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best odds to win the 2019 World Series and with the strength of their offense and starting pitching, it’s easy to see why. However, there is one main concern about the team that sticks out like a sore thumb, and that’s the bullpen.

One of the biggest concerns on the relief staff is Kenley Jansen, who is steadily declining over the years. He’s no longer the lights out closer from 2016-17. Jansen’s 0.24 pitching WAR is ranked No. 23 in the MLB, leading him to miss what would have been his fourth straight All-Star appearance.

His pitching velocity is slowly but surely starting to wither and become less and less effective. Batters are starting to find their groove against him and hitting the ball hard. Of the 27 hits Jansen has allowed this year, nearly half are extra base hits, including six home runs, equating to a .433 slugging percentage. He is allowing 1.47 home runs per nine innings, which is nearly double his career HR/9 (0.83).

He is also projected to blow more saves this year than the previous two seasons combined, which accounts for the nerves that settle in your gut when he takes the mound.

Jansen’s pitching velocity over the years

Year Cutter Slider Four-seam Fastball
Year Cutter Slider Four-seam Fastball
2010 94.6 81.5 94.4
2011 93.9 83.3 94.2
2012 92.4 82.1 93.4
2013 92.9 82.5 94.2
2014 94.3 83.6 95.6
2015 93.3 90.8 93.6
2016 93.9 89.1 95.3
2017 93.2 83.3 94.8
2018 92.1 82.7 93.7
2019 91.6 82.3 93.4

Yes, there are times where he gets into a groove, making us think he could truly be back to his elite level. But if we’re being honest, someone else (like Felipe Vázquez) could do the job more effectively than Jansen. The Pirates closer boasts the third best pitching war in the majors (1.64) and has a 2.11 ERA compared to Jansen’s 3.19.

Forgive me if I am sounding like a broken record, but the pen is a problem that needs to be addressed by the front office if they are serious about winning a World Series. Complacency or “trust in the relievers” will not do the trick. The Dodgers failed to sign free agent Craig Kimbrel, who may have done wonders to improve the bullpen.

Instead, the Dodgers have an opportunity to make major moves at the trade deadline to show they are in it to win it. If it means trading two top prospects to get that arm they desperately need, so be it. Sure, there are no guarantees when it comes to trades, but I’ll take the chance of increasing this year’s chances than to help “the future”. The Dodgers can cross that bridge when they get there. For now, this year should be the main concern.