Kenley Jansen saves for the Dodgers, again and again

David Young
August 22, 2014
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Kenley Jansen is quietly piling up the saves at a highly successful rate, heading toward a top season for Dodgers relievers, and closing in on his 100th career save.

Kenley Jansen closes baseball games for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite a few struggles this season, he is somewhat quietly moving up the teams single-season saves list, and converting his saves at a very successful rate as well.

The save is a bit of a strange statistic1, but if one ignores the three-inning save outliers, the reality is that closers are frequently pitching in very high-leverage situations and are still measured, to some extent, by saves. It's also likely that saves will be part of criteria used to determine Jansen's salary for next season, as he enters his second year of eligibility for an arbitrated salary.

In the just-concluded series with the San Diego Padres, Jansen saved both wins for the Dodgers, on Thursday night sealing Clayton Kershaw's win with the slimmest possible cushion of a one-run lead, and on Tuesday night finishing the game with the aid of the rare2 walkoff TOOTBLAN3.

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Almontereplay_medium


via Gaslamp Ball

This brought Jansen's save total to 36 in the 129 games played by Los Angeles this season. At that rate, Jansen would post 45 saves in 2014, which would make him the all-time Dodgers single-season saves leader, in the non-Eric Gagné division.

Most Saves, season by LA Dodgers
Player Year Saves Save % OPS Allowed
Eric Gagné 2003 55 100.0 .374
Eric Gagné 2002 52 92.9 .537
Eric Gagné 2004 45 95.7 .511
Todd Worrell 1996 44 83.0 .667
Jeff Shaw
2001 43 82.7 .676
Takashi Saito 2007 39 90.7 .448
Kenley Jansen
2014 36 90.0 .622
Jonathan Broxton
2009 36 85.7 .479
Todd Worrell 1997 35 79.5 .766
Jeff Shaw 1999 34 87.2 .626

In his first full season as the undisputed closer for the Blue, Jansen is also converting his saves at a 90% success rate. Only Gagné and Takashi Saito have been more successful by that measure for a season of 30 or more saves.

The native of Curaçao is also managing to be successful while sporting an OPS allowed that, while respectable, does not astound. But given that he strikes out 38.9% of the batters he faces, seventh-best in the majors (40 innings, minimum)4, and his current BABIP allowed is an exceedingly high .371, there is a good chance that his OPS allowed will decrease as the season progresses.

For his career, Jansen has converted 86.0% of his save opportunities5, racked up 98 saves, and fanned 39.6% of the batters he faced. Opposing hitters scrape up a measly .173/.253/.267 batting line against him. Not bad for a converted catcher.

No matter how you slice it, you are witnessing a very high-level of relief pitching when you see Kenley Jansen ascend the mound for the Dodgers, so enjoy it and appreciate it, as you enjoy tremendous odds that you are about to witness the conclusion to another Los Angeles victory.

1. A pitcher earns a save when his team wins, he finishes the game, he isn't credited with the win, and one of the following three conditions hold: 1. he enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; 2. he enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck; 3. he pitches effectively for at least three innings.

2. It would seem to be rare, but the Dodgers have done it twice to the Padres in two seasons

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3. TOOTBLAN is an acronym for Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop, coined on May 7, 2008 by blogger Tony Jewell to describe the baserunning antics of then-Cub (and later Dodger) Ryan Theriot.

4. Brad Boxberger leads at 42.7%

5. For players with 75 or more career saves since 1958, the 86.0% save success rate is 17th best, tied with current teammate Brian Wilson. Gagné leads this category at 91.7%. Future hall-of-famer Mariano Rivera's rate was 89.1%. Current hall-of-famer Dennis Eckersley was successful 84.6% of the time.