Wednesday, October 05, 2011

K/9 King Kenley

As others had pointed out in earlier posts and emails to us, Kenley Jansen's performance last year was an under-the-radar record-setting performance. In fact, Jansen now owns the major league record for strikeouts per nine innings (minimum 50 innings), with a K/9 record of 16.9.

LOS ANGELES -- The season-ending buzz over Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp pretty much obscured the one Dodger who did something more successfully this year than anybody ever has in the Majors.

That would be rookie reliever Kenley Jansen, who set a Major League record by striking out a staggering 16.1 batters per nine innings (with a minimum of 50 innings). Jansen fanned 96 in 53 2/3 innings, raising the bar from the 15.99 mark set by Cubs closer Carlos Marmol last year.

"And I had an 11.45 ERA in April," Jansen points out with equal parts pride and astonishment, a splashy 2.85 ERA at the finish underscoring an in-season transformation almost as remarkable as the one he made two years ago when he went from catcher to pitcher.

Jansen, who turned 24 last week, leaped over some pretty impressive Dodgers relievers as a one-season strikeout machine, closers like Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne (14.98) and All-Stars Jonathan Broxton (13.50) and Takashi Saito (12.29).

Jansen credits a drill overseen by bullpen coach Ken Howell and bullpen catcher Mike Borzello for the breakthrough in his command. Before each game, Jansen would throw a 15-pitch bullpen session working on hitting specific locations.

"My command wasn't good enough," said Jansen. "Then it really clicked. I straight-up remember the very first pitch and my focus was better. I was throwing through the catcher's glove, not to it. Focusing on strike one.

"This has been awesome. Growing up as a kid, you dream of just playing in the big leagues. And here you are, you're pitching in big league games, and the next thing you know you've got an all-time record? It's amazing."

What's even better is the quotes at the end from coach Don Mattingly, who is a Jansen acolyte:

Manager Don Mattingly said Javy Guerra, who converted 21 of 23 save opportunities this year, deserves to be the closer coming into 2012. But it's hard to imagine Jansen not being a closer if he keeps up his dominating ways.

"He came into camp, and all of a sudden there were expectations, and I didn't think he dealt with that early on," said Mattingly. "He went to the Minor Leagues and worked on his game, improving his command and holding the running game better.

"Now, I feel I can count on him. He's going into the winter with a whole new mindset. He knows he belongs. He'll walk into that clubhouse in the spring knowing he's a big league player."

Kongratulations, Kenley!


QuadSevens said...

High 5 for Kenley!

Josh S. said...

The night of Kershaw's win made me a dyed-in-the-wool Jansen-ite. I actually hope he doesn't become closer. He should be used precisely as he was used that night: To put out the fire when a starter gets in a late-inning jam.

Pistol Pete Reiser said...

@ Josh,

Absolutely. That 20th game hold he put up for the Minotaur was play-off atmosphere big, a damned fine night, indeed.