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Dodgers Dugout: Pitching poorly shouldn't be the biggest concern for Kenley Jansen fans

Dodgers Dugout: Pitching poorly shouldn't be the biggest concern for Kenley Jansen fans
Kenley Jansen (Harry How / Getty Images)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell,and I have a sneaking suspicion that the Dodgers’ playoff hopes will come down to the final three games of the season — against San Francisco.

What to do about Kenley Jansen?

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Since becoming the Dodgers’ closer in 2012, Kenley Jansen has been among the best closers in baseball, and I would argue the best, but that’s not what this is about, so let’s not get sidetracked.

Among Dodgers with at least 500 innings pitched, he is first all-time in strikeouts per nine innings (13.57), ERA (2.19), FIP (2.06), saves (262) and WHIP (0.889), and his inherited runners who scored percentage (23.53%) is second among relievers to Eric Gagne (15%).

Yet here the Dodgers are, fighting for a playoff spot with Jansen’s performance doing as much to prevent that from happening as anything else.

Jansen got off to a very shaky start this season, giving up 11 hits (three homers) in 9.2 innings, blowing two saves and losing a game in March and April.

From May to July, he saved 27 games and gave up only 23 hits (three homers) and nine walks in 41.2 innings, striking out 45. He lost only one game and blew only one save.

In short, he was 98% the Jansen of old.

In his first three outings in August, it was more of the same. Three innings, one hit, four strikeouts, one walk, two saves. He was automatic in the ninth inning.

And then he had the recurrence of his irregular heartbeat and went on the disabled list. He missed 11 days, then came back. Since then, disaster. Four innings, 10 hits (four homers), five strikeouts, two losses, one blown save.

Jansen has blamed the medication he was given for his heart problem, saying it made him feel “like I was sleepwalking out there, no adrenaline.” So, Jansen talked to his cardiologist, who gave him the go-ahead to stop taking the medicine.

Then he went out in the ninth inning Tuesday, with the Dodgers leading Texas, 8-2. His pitches were all over the place and he gave up two runs on three singles and walk. Only an amazing behind-his-back grab on a hard shot up the middle allowed him to escape with a game-ending double play.

“Today, my adrenaline was all through the roof,” Jansen said. “I was just so amped up, and felt good. Like I said, the command wasn’t there. I know myself; I will get out of this.”

But how long can the Dodgers wait for him to get out of this?

They have four important games against the Diamondbacks starting today. Four games that figure to be close and will go a long way toward determining whether the Dodgers make the playoffs for the sixth season in a row. What to do?

I think you have to give Jansen at least one more shot at it. If he’s correct and it was the medication messing him up, then it can take a couple of days for it to get out of his system. So, if the Dodgers lead by a run or two in the ninth inning Thursday, I’d bring Jansen in.

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He has earned at least that much respect from fans. He has earned the right to find out if it was the medication, and if he can find his mechanics again. Six seasons of stopping the hearts of opponents have earned him at least one more game to restart ours.

This isn’t like last season, where if something had happened to Jansen most Dodgers fans would have felt secure sending Brandon Morrow out there. Kenta Maeda is the logical person to replace Jansen, but he has only been in the bullpen a couple of weeks. He has been a starter his whole career and you’d have to hold your breath a little while as he navigates the pressure of saving games during a playoff race.

And after Maeda, the choices get pretty slim. I’d rather take my chances with Jansen over anyone else in the bullpen right now. What, you want to bring in Pedro Baez because has had a good couple of weeks?

To me, the scariest part of all of this isn’t the fact that Jansen might be off his game, it’s the fact he stopped taking his medication. The fact his cardiologist signed off on it doesn’t make me feel a lot better, because in a town where many people still remember the tragic death of Hank Gathers, hearing about someone adjusting their medication brings back bad memories.

Here’s the most chilling quote of all: “[The medication] might be making sure my heart doesn't stop. But I told my doctor I can't pitch like this.”

Growing up the son of a great dad who had heart problems, let me just say this: It’s better to pitch like this today and come back for the alumni game in 20 years than pitch like the Jansen of old and be remembered posthumously.

Ask Ross Porter

Hi, fans! It’s good to be back with you to answer your questions during this baseball season. Please send your questions to Houston, and he will pass them on to me. List the city in which you live.

David Spencer of Westlake Village asks: Where do the Dodgers rank in number of World Series appearances, Ross?

Ross: World Series Appearances:

Yankees, 40 (27-13)

Giants, 20 (8-12)

Dodgers, 19 (6-13)

Cardinals, 19 (11-8)

Jerry Monarch of La Mirada, Sam Prieto of Lancaster and Norm Levine ask: Why do umpires throw some baseballs out of play, Ross, and not others? What happens to the removed balls?

Ross: Balls that come in contact with the infield dirt are usually replaced because the scuffed cover can sometimes give a pitched ball unusual movement, like a breaking ball thrown with a certain grip. The dirt has a harder, spongy texture so balls that spin into the dirt get scuffed. A tiny crack on a seam can be a big advantage for pitchers. The ump doesn't have to replace a ball. It's funny to see an umpire take a ball from the catcher and give it right back without telling him. Used baseballs are saved for batting practice or donated to schools.

Tom Bowman of Greenwood Village, Colo., asks: Congratulations to Honolulu for winning the Little League World Series. How many players have won the Little League World Series and Major League Baseball's World Series?

Ross: Only Yusmeiro Petit. He won the Little League World Series with Venezuela in 1994 and the MLB World Series with San Francisco in 2014.

Rick Barthel and Dale Johnson ask: Ross, are bats provided at no cost to major leaguers?

Ross: Wood bats retail from $100 to $400 and the team assumes the cost at a bulk discount. They are custom-made bats, so the player decides weight, length, barrel and hand thickness, color, and either Northern White Ash or Maple Wood. Players normally use 50 to 60 bats a season — or one every 10 at-bats. No bat can be longer than 42 inches, most are 32 to 36 inches long and 30 to 34 ounces in weight. A substance can be used on a bat handle to improve the grip, but not more than 18 inches from its end.

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Kris Kemp of Covina asks: Ross, has anyone ever hit for the cycle in order — single, double, triple and home run?

Ross: Yes, 14 players, but no Dodgers and the last time was in 2006 when Gary Matthews Jr. did it.

More KTLA games

For those of you who live in the Los Angeles area and are unable to see Dodgers games on TV, there will be two more games televised on KTLA (Channel 5). Those games are:

Friday vs. Arizona, 7 p.m.

Tuesday vs. New York Mets, 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, there is no agreement between DirecTV and Spectrum SportsNet coming in the near future.

Up next

Thursday, 7 p.m.: Arizona (TBD) at Dodgers (Rich Hill, 6-4, 3.50 ERA)

Friday, 7 p.m.: Arizona (TBD) at Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 6-5, 2.39 ERA)

Saturday, 6 p.m.: Arizona (TBD) at Dodgers (Hyun-jin Ryu, 4-1, 2.18 ERA)

Sunday, 1 p.m.: Arizona (TBD) at Dodgers (TBD)

And finally

Ross Stripling is delayed in his return from the disabled list. Read all about it here.

Have a comment or something you'd like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston.

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