Friday, August 03, 2012


Could Dodger Kenley Jansen be the next Mariano Rivera? Raif

7/31/12, "The Second Coming of Mariano Rivera?", Mike Raif

Kenley Jansen, Mariano Rivera

"Based on the sheer number of statistical and subjective categories in baseball there is seldom a consensus best player in any one category. Take third base for example. Among third basemen a very strong argument could be made for a number of different players. I could personally write a dissertation focusing only on a comparison between Miguel Cabrera and Evan Longoria, and I would thoroughly enjoy doing so. Yet in one position there can be no debate. Baseball insiders and statisticians alike must agree that Mariano Rivera is not only the greatest active closer, but is likely the most successful closer we are likely to see in our lifetime. To say any other player comes close is hardball blasphemy. Yet I will take my chances with the powers that be in Major League Baseball and say that Kenley Jansen may very well be the best candidate to surpass Mariano Rivera.

Although there are a number of young relievers with tremendous promise (Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, and Chris Perez), the comparisons between Jansen and Rivera avail the former as the perfect candidate to one day unseat the king. Perhaps the best place to start the comparison is with the cut fastball. Anyone who has played high level baseball will tell you that in order to hit a mid-90s fastball hitters must pick up and commit to the pitch almost immediately after it leaves the pitchers hand.
Mariano Rivera’s legendary cutter features a late break up to 8 inches and rotates at up to 1600 rpm. Imagine hitting something traveling well over posted highway speed limits and moving up to three quarters of a turkey sub from where you would expect it to be. For this reason there is little mystery surrounding Rivera’s unprecedented relief success. Kenley Jansen also features a cutter and although it may not be at the same level as Rivera’s Jansen has already achieved remarkable success with it. In 2010 Jansen set the MLB single season record for strikeouts per nine with a season ending mark of 16.10. To put that in perspective, the highest K/9 Rivera ever managed was 10.9. There are also a number of factors that seem to point towards continued success for Jansen. Unlike Rivera who made his debut at 25,
This is particularly significant for a late reliever due to the potential longevity of their careers. The wear and tear on a late reliever is relatively small compared to an everyday position player or a starter who is expected to string multiple innings together. This is part of the reason why pitchers like Darren Oliver can pitch into their 40’s (let’s just ignore Jamie Moyer). This early start for Jansen could give him upwards of twenty years in the big leagues if he plays his cards right and gets a bit of luck on the injury front. In addition Jansen became the Dodgers everyday closer this year. Earning this role at 24 puts Jansen well ahead of Rivera’s mark. Rivera spent one year as a starter in 1995 and followed it up with a set-up stint behind John Wetteland for the 1996 season. It was not until 1997 at the age of 27 they Rivera took up the mantle of full-time closer. This three year head start, coupled with early career success for Jansen to build on, makes him the most likely candidate to give chase to the peerless Mariano Rivera. Although both luck, skill, and hard work won’t guarantee anything, it is evident that we are witnessing the start of a bright and exciting career. And if the anaemic offense in LA continues at this pace for the next twenty years, close games and save opportunities should be in abundance."

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