Is Dodgers closer Jansen the new Mike Marshall?
MAY 02, 2014 11:53a ET
Jay Jaffe’s a fine writer and analyst, plus he’s a Los Angeles Dodgers fan of long standing. So when Jay says something about his favorite team, I listen ...
Time to worry about Kenley Jansen, if only because Mattingly has him confused with Mile Marshall— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) May 2, 2014
Thursday night, Jansen pitched in his 18th game this season. I’ll save you the math; Jansen’s now on pace for 101 appearances. I’ll also save you the Play Index search; only one pure reliever in history has made 100 or more appearances in one season ... and yes, that reliever was Mike Marshall, who pitched in 106 games for the Dodgers in 1974.
Marshall’s single-season record is the record by a lot, as the No. 2 spot on the list is held by Salomon Torres and Kent Tekulve, who both made 94 appearances.*
* Tekulve, by the way, probably deserves some special award, as he owns three of the nine 90-appearance seasons.
Hence the Marshall reference, which is perfectly interesting and appropriate.
But as Jay Jaffe knows as well as anyone, Jansen is most assuredly not some 21st century version of Marshall. When Marshall pitched in 106 games, 40 years ago, he also threw 208 innings. When Marshall pitched in 92 games the year before, he threw 179 innings. Meanwhile, Jansen’s on pace for 101 games ... and 84 innings.
Forty years ago, Marshall was a freak; today, he says he knows “how to eliminate all pitching injuries” and within baseball circles is widely considered something of a crank. It turns out that whatever Marshall had, especially in those two supernatural seasons with the Dodgers, probably can’t be taught.
Don Mattingly’s been using Kenley Jansen just like every other modern manager uses every modern relief ace: an inning (or sometimes less) at a time, almost always in save situations. Jansen just happens to have pitched in a bunch of early games because there have been a bunch of save situations.
But he certainly won’t pitch in 101 games, and he won’t pitch even 84 innings. Mike Marshall? The last relief ace to save at least 30 games and pitch even 80 innings was Kevin Gregg in 2007. Jansen’s April was just a fluke, and he’ll finish the season -- absent injury, of course -- with 70 games and 70 innings. Just like all the rest of them.
Is this a good thing for him and the Dodgers? I don’t know.
It’s a good thing for Mattingly, who might well lose his job if Jansen pitched any less often or if he pitched any more and got hurt. While the management of pitchers’ workloads has changed quite a lot in the last 20 years, it’s become highly regimented and thus less interesting.
Another Mike Marshall ... now that would be interesting. But in today’s game, there’s just no room for that type of interesting.