Key Stats: Jansen set a major league record last year for strikeouts per nine innings (with a minimum of 50 innings pitched) with 16.1. He uses a steady dose of mid 90’s fastballs (cutter?) with the occasional slider to get his K’s. He pitched better than his already acceptable ERA of 2.85 indicates since all of his ERA litmus tests (FIP, xFIP, tERA and SIERA) are lower than the number they show you on TV. Despite giving up a flyball almost 50% of the time, his HR/FB rate was only 6.5%. He generates a swinging strike more than 16% of the time and can get guys to chase pitches outside the zone.
Skeptics Say: Despite the amazing K/9 Kenley gave us, he still has control problems, as evidenced by his 4.36 BB/9. His BABIP was .297 and that nice 6.5% HR/FB rate are both on the low side (the latter number being really low) the BABIP will increase a little, but that HR/FB rate while not unsustainable, may be tough to maintain given his lack of what can be considered a typical ground ball inducing pitch. Given that though, I like to keep in mind he is only 24 years old, and has only been pitching for three years. He was a catcher in 2009 that converted. Kenley still has 3-4 years before he “hits his prime” and has time to develop a change, curve, sinker, whatever and harness his control problems. That last note is just my thinking… I haven’t actually read anything that says he is actively working on another pitch.
Peer Comparison: He has two pitches according to Fangraphs, a fastball and a slider. But this is no ordinary fastball. This thing dances… some would even call it… a cutter.
Being a relief pitcher that throws a cutter for comparisons sake we need to look at the most effective closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. This may not be fair, but we have to do it anyway.
In Rivera’s rookie year (granted he started 10 games) he showed the same control problems Kenley currently has. In his second season, he worked that out, cutting his BB/9 nearly in half. He then record 603 saves on his way to being the most prolific closer of all time. I guess Kenley has a bright furutre ahead of him.
Perhaps a much better path for us to take is to level the playing field and pick out a reliever with K’s and a high walk rate. How about a comparison to Carlos Marmol? 2011 number of course…
Marmol: 30.3 K%, 14.7 BB%, 1.38 WHIP, .295 BABIP in 74 IP
Jansen: 44.0 K%, 11.9 BB%, 1.04 WHIP, .297 BABIP in 53.2 IP
Jansen also overtakes Marmol in swinging strike rate, first pitch strike rate and getting batters to chase pitches. That makes me think (at least in this comparison) despite the high walk rates, Jansen could be called “effectively wild” while Marmol is just wild.
Team Outlook: The Dodgers currently do not have a close going into 2012, letting Jansen and Javy Guerra fight it out to win the job in the spring. Both were rookies this past year, but I think Jansen clearly has more upside and should win the closing role. They haven’t made big splash in the offseason, but have added Chris Capuano and Arron the Harang-utan, who will be taking the place Hiroki Kuroda and probably Rubby De La Rosa.
Projection: Regardless if Kenley is closing or not, he should be rostered. While I personally think he will be the closer out of spring, even if he isn’t, the ammount of K’s he gets you can’t be ignored in leagues that have innings pitched limits. My projections are based on him closing games.
3 Wins, 34 Saves, 2.21 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 92 K’s in 55 IP