Kenley Jansen stuck out three batters in a four-out save against the Mets yesterday, lowering his ERA to 1.96, his FIP to 1.82, and his xFIP to 1.89. The unreal part of this is that he continues to evolve and improve as a pitcher. He has been simply game over for opposing teams lately, and the fan appreciation for how he goes about his business is at an all-time high.
But when he does begin to give up runs again, or perhaps even blows a save or two, what I don’t want is for people to fall back into the same logic they used to justify Don Mattingly choosing Javy Guerra to close in 2012 or Ned Colletti choosing Brandon League in 2013. Go back just four months and you would find people mocking me for articles I wrote that placed Jansen as one of the elite relievers in all of baseball.
That kind of stuff from Dodger fans has always been puzzling to me, because he’s been nothing but excellent since he’s debuted. And it’s why I feel that, for what he has accomplished thus far in his career, Jansen has been extremely underrated.
Just sit back and consider his body of work, because I don’t think enough people really do.
1) In his 204 career IP, he has a 2.16 ERA, 2.01 FIP, and 2.31 xFIP. Since his debut in 2010, those rank eighth, second, and second in the MLB, respectively, among qualified relievers.
2) He has struck out 40.1% of batters that he has faced in his career, and from 2010-13, he is one of only three relievers to hit the 40% mark (Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman). Nobody else has even topped 35%.
3) Among relievers with 200 IP in their careers, he is currently third all-time in ERA, second all-time in FIP, and second all-time in xFIP. While I realize that he hasn’t gone through his decline phase, as he’s still just 25, I wanted to put what he’s doing right now in perspective.
The point being that this is not some fluke stretch that he’s going through. Kenley Jansen is just being Kenley Jansen. He’s been here for four years now, and far more surprising than the run he’s having now is how people didn’t expect it all along.
Oh yeah, and prior to 2013, he was pitching with a heart defect. Now that doctors have fixed that, he’s decided to become Megatron or something. While 2013 represents the worst strikeout rate he’s had in a full season (38.5%), he has posted his best year by having better control (4.1% walk rate). He has more than halved his walk rate from last year and has almost cut his walk rate in thirds since 2011.
Still just 25, he’s already had a remarkable journey as a player and has transformed himself into one of the league’s elite relievers. And as a converted catcher who spent just a year on the mound before being called up, the scary part about Jansen’s performance is that he’s still in the process of figuring out ways to get better.