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Kenley Jansen might be the Dodgers’ closer in name only

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“There’s still going to be times I might need him in a different inning,” Dave Roberts said Sunday.

Wild Card Round - Milwaukee Brewers v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game One Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Kenley Jansen is the Dodgers’ closer.

At least, that’s what Dave Roberts said following the game last Thursday when Brusdar Graterol closed things out. Although Roberts may claim that is Jansen’s role, it is true that the torch is slowly being passed on?

“He’s our closer, but there are still opportunities,” Roberts said when talking to the media on Sunday. “I talked with him yesterday to be on the same page. There’s still going to be times I might need him in a different inning. He’s on board with whatever to help us win baseball games.”

In other words, Jansen will be the closer, except when they don’t want him to pitch the ninth inning, which might happen quite a bit moving forward. We saw it just last week. In Game 2 against the Brewers, Graterol pitched the ninth inning and got the save, as opposed to Jansen. In the postgame press conference, Roberts said he didn’t want Jansen facing “the same run of guys” he retired the night prior with a three run lead, though Christian Yelich was the only similar batter at the end of Games 1 and 2.

Roberts went on to say that being the closer is just a title and that he could be more valuable earlier in the game in certain innings when facing certain lineups. He said if using him earlier is the best option, they’ll proceed that way.

In the five-game series last year against the Nationals, Jansen pitched only two times. However, it was too late when he was brought in during the 10th inning of Game 5. Instead of Roberts turning to Jansen in a tie game in the ninth inning of a winner-take-all game, he opted to go with Joe Kelly. Same thing for the 10th inning. It came back to bite the Dodgers. But as we saw last year, Roberts was unwilling to put in his closer during the biggest inning of the season.

According to Roberts, Jansen has been getting some work in with the coaching staff over the last few days. He’s really liked the drills they’ve had him working on. Last week, Jansen’s velocity was clearly down, as he was touching the high 80s with his pitches. This is something we’ve seen in 2020. Jansen’s velocity has been up-and-down. Earlier in this season he was touching 93 and 94 mph. However, there were times where it was significantly down.

It’s not necessarily Jansen pitching earlier in the game “for the team”. It looks like it’s more so about him still being the closer, except when they don’t trust him to be.

Max Muncy will continue to be in the middle of the lineup

Nobody had a more frustrating 2020 season for the Dodgers than Max Muncy. His numbers were all career-lows since joining LA. Though he’s continued to struggle, Roberts has left him in the No. 4 spot in the lineup. It looks like he’ll stay there throughout the postseason.

“He’ll be in the middle of our lineup,” Roberts said when asked if Muncy could be moved down. “I still think that the first game, taking a couple of walks, the second game he had some good swings, just didn’t make contact. I still think he’s seeing the baseball considerably better and i like him where he’s at.”

Muncy has stepped up to the plate seven times during the postseason so far. He’s walked twice and struck out four times.

“He missed some pitches, but I think the swings were considerably better than where they were at the beginning of the year.” Roberts said.

Dating back to the regular season, Muncy is hitting .145 over his last 21 games.