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Dodgers Dugout: Kenley Jansen gives the Dodgers a leg up at closer

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and my TV is warmed up and ready to go ..... not that I can watch the Dodgers on it.

The closer

Continuing our rankings of the NL West teams at various positions, let’s turn to the closers. If you want to see the infield comparison, go here; outfield, go here; starting rotation, go here.


1. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers

Last three seasons: 8-7/2.32 ERA/108 saves/90.8% SV%/5.2 WAR

 Jansen is one of the most underrated players in the game, who for some reason never comes up when "experts" talk about the best closers. But in the last three seasons, he is fourth in saves, fourth among relievers with 13.52 strikeouts per nine innings and sixth among relievers with a 0.931 WHIP. He throws a cutter 90% of the time, and it's basically unhittable. Seems like there was another reliever like that ... oh, yeah, Mariano Rivera.

2. Santiago Casilla, San Francisco

Last three seasons: 14-7/2.22/59/84.3%/4.2

The Giants had a disappointing 2015, but you can't blame Casilla, who had a solid season. His stats did suffer  compared with 2014, as in virtually the same number of innings (58 1/3 to 58), he gave up 16 more hits, three more homers and eight more walks. 

3. Brad Ziegler, Arizona

Last three seasons: 13-7/2.51 ERA/44/78.6%/4.2

One of the rare closers who doesn't strike out a lot of batters (134 K's in his last 208 innings), Ziegler throws sidearm (think Dan Quisenberry or Kent Tekulve). He gets ground ball after ground ball, so he will always need a strong defense behind him.

4. Jason Motte, Colorado

Last two seasons: 9-1/4.17/6/85.7%/0.1

The Rockies are rolling the dice by giving Motte a two-year, $10-million deal and naming him their closer. He came back from Tommy John surgery in 2014 with the Cardinals, then went to the Cubs last season, where he was 8-1 with a 3.91 ERA before being sidelined in August with a shoulder injury. He did save 42 games for the Cardinals in 2012, but that was a long time and many injuries ago.

5. Fernando Rodney, San Diego

Last three seasons: 13-15/3.63/101/84.9%/0.8

Hi, my name is Fernando Rodney. I walk too many people, give up a hit an inning and had a 4.92 ERA last season. I'm not sure why the Padres signed me and made me their closer either, so please stop asking.

So, using the same system through all the comparisons, seven points for finishing first, five for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for last, that means for closers, the rankings are (yeah, I know you can figure it out yourself):

Dodgers, 7 points

San Francisco, 5

Arizona, 3

Colorado, 2

San Diego, 1

Which means, after comparing the position players, the rotation and now the closers, the tally is:

1. Dodgers, 69 points

2. San Francisco, 64

3. Arizona, 53

4. Colorado, 41

5. San Diego, 25

We still have the rest of the bullpen and the bench to go.

Grounded

Yasiel Puig would like to buy a helicopter so he can fly to Dodger Stadium on game days and avoid traffic, which would also help him arrive on time. But it turns out, that's illegal.

But the best news about Puig is that he has reconnected with Tim Bravo, who chaperoned him during the first six weeks of his career. You remember those first six weeks, when Puig looked like the best baseball player on the planet. Even better, connecting with Bravo again was Puig's idea. Bravo has been working with Puig this spring in Phoenix.

This is very encouraging, because anything that helps Puig stay focused during the season moves the Dodgers one step closer to the playoffs.

Slide area

Major League Baseball announced on Thursday that slides like the one Chase Utley used in last season's playoff are now illegal and will lead to an automatic double play.

Players sliding into second base must make "a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base," without making contact above the knee and without veering away from the base and toward a fielder.

"Our goal in amending the slide rule was to enhance player safety, reduce incidents of injury and to do it in a way that respects and preserves the bona fide hustle plays that are integral to our game," said Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Assn. "I am optimistic that this new rule will accomplish those goals."

Somewhere, Ty Cobb is shaking his head.

The rotation

Dave Roberts made his first tough decision as Dodgers manager: He announced that Clayton Kershaw will start on opening day.

Also, Hyun-jin Ryu will not be ready by the start of the season and probably won't join the team until May. In the meantime, the fifth starter will be either Alex Wood or Mike Bolsinger, with the smart money on Wood.

TV situation

Just a reminder that Vin Scully is heading into his final season, and most of us still can’t watch the Dodgers on TV. I’m going to repeat this in every newsletter until someone important — either with Time Warner Cable, the cable/satellite providers or the Dodgers — decides to do something, or at least act like they care. Sure, they will all say they care, but actions speak far louder than words.

And finally

Kenta Maeda had no idea who Sandy Koufax was until he met him. Now they are buddies. 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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