“What?!?“, you exclaim! [Slide whistle. Car horn sound. Spit take.]
Aroldis Chapman’s filthy fastball distracts us from the fact that Kenley Jansen has quietly positioned himself as 2014’s money closer, but I’m not here to crucify Chapman. Far from it, I’m here to deify him.
Chapman’s fastball in 2013 topped out at 104! A 104 mph fastball is unreal. Aroldis Chapman isn’t real. He isn’t a real thing. He’s a video game simulated player or something. As evidence, Chapman threw 196 fastballs over 100 mph in 2013, a full 19% of his offerings. Of those 196 pitches over 100, hitters only made contact 54% of the time when they swung and only 17% of those were in play. In other words, hitters were lucky to even foul off a fastball from Aroldis Chapman.
And this is the goal. Chapman is trying to miss bats, and besides raw heat he has another trick up his jersey sleeve. Chapman lives up in the strike zone. Lower fastballs tend to go for contact and grounders. Higher fastballs tend to go for whiffs and fly balls. Chapman throws his heat high, trying to blow it right by hitters. It’s a trick of the eye for hitters, who see a ball high in the zone and foolishly think they’ll get at it. No one can hit a 104 mph fastball, hitters only think they can.
Let’s transition to our other relief pitcher who throws some serious heat: Kenley Jansen.
What do you mean?
OK, sure. I’ll look it up again.
Oh my gosh, Brooks Baseball says that Kenley Jansen doesn’t throw hard at all.
Indeed, around 90% of the time Kenley throws a power cutter. They aren’t all even that hard, many he throws are just 91-92, but they have a sick right to left movement and that is what does it. Then he’ll rear back to hit 94-95 with it and the batter is walking back to the dugout.
Whereas Chapman’s fastball wouldn’t work as well were it not for his slider, Kenley pretty much throws the same pitch all the time. I guess I always just assumed he was a power pitcher until I watched him pitch. (Although I was severely distracted by what Yasiel Puig was doing in the outfield. Is it tai chi he’s doing out there or is he swatting bees?) Kenley’s cutter has such good movement that it fools hitters at that speed, and it fools them every time.
Dixon wrote that David Robertson is heir apparent to Mariano Rivera‘s closer job for the New York Yankees, but Kenley Jansen just might be the heir apparent to take over Mo’s crown as cutter king. It’s an insanely dominant pitch if you can master it, which brings me to my next point.
Let’s not obscure the fact that Jansen was a catcher up until a year before he was converted to a reliever. The book on Jansen was ‘Well, it looks like can’t hit, I wonder if he can pitch.‘ He’s got room to grow folks.
Consider these numbers from 2013:
Jansen’s numbers rival Craig Kimbrel‘s, but Jansen has had the title of “closer” for fewer innings, so in the weird baseball world we live in, his talent gets overlooked, despite the fact he plays in a larger market and on the same team as Yasiel Puig, who I assume is still in right field somewhere swatting a bees and being all kinds of crazy awesome.
It is National Run-On Sentence Day, is it not? The above was my entry.
Overlook Kenley Jansen at your peril, fantasy baseball playing community. Kenley still has room to grow in his mastery of his cutter. He’s already putting up numbers that rival the game’s best closers, it’s time we treated him like it.
Whereas Chapman will be drafted higher in almost all 2014 fantasy baseball drafts, Kenley Jansen will return equal – if not measurably better – numbers. While Chapman has the sexiest pitch, Jansen has the most effective pitch. Give me Jansen.