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No. 75: Greatest Dodgers of All-Time: Kenley Jansen

The best closer in Dodgers history

2017 Major League Baseball World Series Game Six: Houston Astros v. Los Angeles Dodgers

Kenley Jansen

Time with Dodgers: 2010-current

Stats: 30-21, 2.35 ERA, 301 saves, 903 SO, 611 23 IP, 605 G, 163 ERA+, 2.26 FIP, 0.906 WHIP

Baseball Reference WAR: 15.8

FanGraphs WAR: 18.8

Combined WAR: 17.3

Okay, before I receive hundreds of comments questioning this spot, let me explain. While doing this series, I’ve explained how I determine these rankings. I take a player’s WAR from Baseball Reference and their WAR from FanGraphs. I add the two together, and get the average of that number.

17.3 is the average for Kenley Jansen. Now, I know he’s a closer, so due to his limited work he’s not going to have a high WAR every season. However, I can’t make an exception, because they I’d have to make an exception for every player. Let me say this. If Jansen pitches solid another five years for the Dodgers, his career WAR will have him finishing likely in the top 30 or 40, which then will be a very fair ranking. So don’t worry, he’ll eventually get there!

Do I think he deserves to be higher than 75? Of course I do. However, like I said, for this article I have to keep him here.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin!

Jansen made his debut with the Dodgers in July 2010 at the age of 22. He immediately impressed, as he allowed only two runs in 27 innings of work. His workload was much bigger in 2011, as he appeared in 51 games. It wasn’t his time to close out games yet, as he only had five saves and finished 13 games. 2012 was when he took over the closer role, and one of the best stretches by any Dodgers reliever began.

He appeared in a new career-high 65 games in 2012, finishing with 25 saves. The following season he had 28. Then, in 2014, Jansen turned into one of the best closers in all of baseball. He appeared in 68 games, posting an ERA of 2.76, a FIP of 1.91 and a 1.13 WHIP. He had 44 saves, which was the most saves by a Dodger since Eric Gagne.

This was only the beginning for Jansen, as he’d become the best closer in baseball for the next three seasons. From 2015 through 2017, Jansen had 124 saves. His ERA was 1.81, while also having a 220 ERA+, 1.59 FIP and a 0.729 WHIP. In only 189 13 innings, Jansen struck out 293. His SO/9 ratio was 13.9 and his SO/BB ratio was an astonishing 11.27. He was named an All-Star two times during this three-year run. Jansen also finished fifth in Cy Young voting in 2017, while also coming in 15th place for the MVP.

Compared to what he was doing for majority of his career, Jansen has “struggled” over the last two years. For any other relief pitcher or closer, these would be really good numbers. Maybe even career numbers. However, because he saw so many dominant years from Jansen, these were considered down years for him.

Over the last two seasons, Jansen has 71 saves with a 3.34 ERA. Additionally, his ERA+ is 120, his FIP is 3.77 and he has a WHIP of 1.025. He’s averaging 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings, and his SO/BB ratio is 4.91. Again, for majority of closers, you would take this in a heart beat.

Jansen is still one of the best closers in all of baseball, and he’s still only 32 years old. He definitely has some solid seasons left in him.

There’s no question that Jansen is already the greatest closer in Dodgers history. The only question is, where will he rank in MLB history when he calls it a career?

Here’s where Jansen ranks among pitchers in Dodgers history with at least 600 innings of work:

  • 301 saves (1st.... by a lot)
  • 903 strikeouts (23rd)
  • 2.35 ERA (3rd)
  • 2.26 FIP (1st)
  • 37.6 K % (1st)
  • 163 ERA+ (1st)

Get caught up on the rest of the “All-Time Dodgers” lists!