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Meet The New Guy: Kenley Jansen

He’s not KENLEY JANSEN anymore, but he’s still pretty good.

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Who Is He And Where Did He Come From?

He’s Kenley Jansen, he’s been one the best relief pitchers in baseball over the last 13 years, and, frankly, I’m disappointed in you for not already knowing that.

Jansen actually started his professional career as a catcher, and was famously behind the plate when the Netherlands upset the Dominican Republic in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. But after slashing just .227/.298/.397 as a 20-year-old in A-ball, the Dodgers convinced him to give pitching a shot. Two years later, he made his Major League debut in the 7th inning of a tied game against the Mets, retired Angel Pagan, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran in order, and never looked back.

After 12 seasons in LA, Jansen hit the free agent market last offseason and inked a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves. The Red Sox just signed him to a two-year deal for $32 million.

What Position Does He Play?

He’s a closer.

Is He Any Good?

At one point, he was arguably the single best closer in all of baseball. From 2010 through 2017, he saved 230 games with a 183 ERA+ and a 1.81 FIP. That’s a hefty stretch of dominance.

2017 represents a pretty clear dividing line, however, between being elite on one side and merely very good on the other. In the five years since he finished fifth in the Cy Young voting in that 2017 season, Jansen’s FIP has risen to 3.42, while his ERA+ has dropped to 133. In that time, he’s lost a full mile-per-hour on his cutter (which is, by far, his favorite pitch) and he’s developed some control issues. While his walk percentage was once an outstanding 2.7 percent, it’s steadily risen over the years, all the way up to an atrocious 12.9 percent in 2021, before settling back down to 8.5% last season. That said, he was still really hard to hit in 2022, finishing the season in the top 10th percentile in a bunch of super nerdy advanced stats, like expected batting average, expected slugging, and expected weighted on-base, along with the significantly less super nerdy strikeout percentage.

He’s also a 6’5” tank of a human being who almost never gets hurt. Suffice it to say, the Red Sox bullpen is a lot better today than it was yesterday.

Show Me A Cool Highlight

Here he is throwing an absolute seed from his knees to gun down Ryan Braun in the 2009 World Baseball Classic:

Uh, Thanks, But I Was Kinda Hoping For A Pitching Highlight. . .

Ugh, fine, here he is intentionally balking a dude:

You’re Not Getting This. . .

And you’re being basic, but here you go, here’s some pitching:

What’s He Doing In His Picture Up There?

Telling a lost toddler who wandered onto the field to come to papa, little buddy!

What’s His Role On the 2023 Red Sox?

He’s the closer, and everyone else gets in line.