Thursday, April 10, 2014

Time to worry about Jansen?

What a surprise, a closer with some question marks.

Already this season we've seen Jim Johnson and Jim Henderson get demoted; Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Bobby Parnell and Casey Jansen get hurt; and Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, and Glen Perkins get pounded.

And then there's the Dodgers and Kenley Jansen, who all of a sudden looks very mortal.  And even this early in the season, you can't help but wonder if something's wrong.

That's exactly what was asked to Ken Gurnick of, as he addressed this question in his latest mailbag.  What Gurnick pointed out is that nothing appears to be wrong, as he's actually throwing 3-5 MPH harder than last year.  Maybe, just maybe, throwing harder isn't the best thing for a cutter, as it becomes more of a straight fastball.

Or, just maybe, the rush to get to Australia has victimized another stud pitcher, just as it has Clayton Kershaw and Brian Wilson.

The Dodgers certainly hope that's not the case, as the last thing they need is their end-of-game combo of Wilson and Jansen to be on the shelf with some sort of arm injuries.  To Jansen's credit, he's been so good as the closer, any sort of hiccup raises eyebrows.

You know the Dodgers are going to give him plenty of more chances to close, so there's no use in getting all bent out of shape over a couple of bad nights against a really good team in the Tigers.  Even though his numbers aren't pretty (4.76 ERA, 2.29 WHIP), he still has 10 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

But, the one thing that does concern me is something I've been saying for a couple of years now: I just don't think he's going to survive throwing only a cutter.  It's a nasty pitch, and we all know that Mariano Rivera made a living off of it for years.  But Jansen isn't Rivera, and quite frankly, no one is.  I really think he'd be much better off mixing in other pitchers.

I know that's tough for a closer to do, as they want to just blow people away.  That's something Jansen is certainly capable of doing, I'm just not so sure he can do it for long stretches, as Major League hitters are too good and too smart, so they're able to adjust to anything.  Unless you're facing Rivera, of course.

Maybe a couple of saves this weekend in Arizona will do him some good.  I also think tweaking his approach a bit will also do him some good, as the cutter isn't the put away pitch it normally is right now.  If he's stubborn and keeps going to the well too often with the same pitch, then my fear is seeing his name added to the struggling list above. 

That's something none of us need to see.

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