As usual before I start doing these types of articles, I like to put negativity in a positivity sandwich. So I’m not going to start this off guns a-blazing and instead I’m going to keep it positive to start this off. Kenley Jansen has largely been doing his job when it comes to being the closer in the Braes bullpen this season. More often than not, he’s been getting the job done and aside from a few wobbles, he’s been giving the Braves what they needed. It’s quite easy to simply look at the saves leaderboard and see Jansen right up there at the top of not just the National League, but baseball as a whole. Jansen still has plenty to offer in the bullpen!
With that being said, he’s currently in the midst of another wobble and this has been an extended one. Ever since Jansen walked his way into a blown save back on August 27 in St. Louis, Jansen has been putting up a 9.00 ERA and a 6.72 FIP. That’s not including his latest shocker on Sunday evening, which is when he basically took a gift from Atlanta’s lineup and squandered it by giving up two homers in the bottom of the ninth to turn what would’ve been an incredible comeback into an extremely frustrating loss. That’ll surely put his ERA into double-digits over his past seven appearances, which is not ideally what you want from your closer!
So what’s going on right now? Usually this would be where I look at the numbers and try to give you a statistical breakdown as to what’s going on with Kenley Jansen, but it’s not that simple this time around. His velocity hasn’t taken a significant deviation from what you’d expect from him here in 2022 and the rest of his profile doesn’t look terrible at all. However, something is clearly wrong and I think it would be best to just let the man speak for himself:
"My delivery is out of whack right now."— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) September 4, 2022
Kenley Jansen discusses his latest outing ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/FiHCKUrigd
Kenley Jansen meets with the media following Atlanta's series finale against the Mariners pic.twitter.com/rA7nhNwhec— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) September 12, 2022
First off, I definitely appreciate the positive attitude that Jansen is taking towards this wobble. Despite that absolute disaster that he had on Sunday, it’s clear that he’s chomping at the bit to get out there for another chance. That’s good! That’s what you want to see and hear! With that being said, he said it himself; His delivery is off and he’s been missing his location with alarming regularity in his past few starts. Obviously this is something that he’s going to have no choice but to work through and you could ask any Dodgers fan that you know that it’s the type of thing that’s going to happen every now and then with Jansen as the closer.
So with that in mind, it would probably be best to give Kenley Jansen some low-leverage opportunities for a short period of time while guys like Raisel Iglesias or A.J. Minter get the ball when it comes to closing. If he’s got to work through getting his delivery back in check, then you’d definitely rather see him do that while he’s got plenty of breathing room to play with. Jansen is saying all the right things right now but the results are telling a different story. Something is clearly wrong right now and I’d rather see him work it out without the game being on the line while he’s doing so.
The only question now is whether or not Brian Snitker is going to deviate from his usual bullpen routine in order to compensate for the fact that Kenley Jansen is going through a particularly rough patch at the moment. I think we all know the answer to that, but here’s some video in case you were wondering:
"He's leading the league in saves."— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) September 11, 2022
Brian Snitker on Kenley Jansen ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/swLmqH9Swi
So yeah, it’s looking like we’re going to be seeing Kenley come in for the ninth inning as long as he’s healthy enough to do so. Brian Snitker is a perfectly fine manager and you are not going to see me on here getting snarky with a guy who has been in this sport longer than I’ve been alive and pulled off a bullpen management masterclass on his way to a World Series title last Postseason.
With that being said, it’s pretty clear by now that Brian Snitker as The Postseason Bullpen Manager is a much different beast when compared to Brian Snitker as The Regular Season Bullpen Manager. If Kenley Jansen is telling him that he just needs to work through it and he’s healthy enough to do so, then Snitker is going to keep on giving Jansen every opportunity to get things under control. We’re probably going to receive a whole bunch of gray hairs as fans watching Jansen work through this wobble in the middle of a pennant chase but it’s looking like we’re going to have to just deal with Jansen going through it at this point.
So while I have little-to-no faith that Kenley Jansen is going to see a reduced role for the final stage of the regular season, I can at least see two situations that would still have the Braves in good shape going forward. The first situation is that Jansen eventually figures it out on the mound and the Braves go into the postseason with all cylinders firing off. This would involve Jansen going on a run to mirror what Will Smith did last season and who wouldn’t want a repeat of that performance, right?
The second scenario would mean that Kenley Jansen keeps on struggling as the Braves head into the Postseason. Brian Snitker would be forced to play the hot hand like he’s usually done in the Postseason and that would be when we see Jansen placed in a lower-leverage position in the bullpen. Either way, I don’t see any changes being made until October. Atlanta’s got a proven closer in Jansen and it’s pretty clear that they’re going to stick with him until the end — for better or for worse.