Right-hander threw pitch 85 percent of the time in 2015
By Justin Emerson
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Clayton Kershaw has a curveball that buckles hitters' knees. Aroldis Chapman has a fastball he throws harder than any man has ever thrown a baseball. Special pitchers are known for their best pitch.
"It's always moving, it's never straight," Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford said. "His moves I don't know how many inches, but it moves a lot. I think that's why he's so effective."
Jansen throws a four-seam fastball and a slider as well, but his bread-and-butter pitch is his cutter, a pitch he threw over 85 percent of the time in 2015, according to Fangraphs.
When a right-hander throws a cutter, it breaks to the glove side, or in toward a left-handed hitter. Second baseman Chase Utley said it's hard for left-handed hitters like himself to pick up a right-handed cutter that breaks in toward them.
"You don't see a whole lot of true cutter guys. His fastball naturally cuts," Utley said. "Depending on which side of the plate he's throwing it to, it kind of changes your game plan."
When a pitcher throws a cutter as frequently and as effectively as Jansen, it helps conjure memories of the man who made the pitch famous.
"We all saw how good of a career Mariano [Rivera] had," Turner said of the former Yankees closer. "Kenley's off to a pretty good start to his."
While both Jansen and Rivera possess a cutter and a predisposition for getting hitters out, they could not be more dissimilar, physically. Rivera took the mound in an unimposing frame, standing a modest 6-foot-2 and weighing 195. Jansen stands at 6-foot-5 and looks every ounce of the 270 pounds the Dodgers list him at.
Last season, Jansen struck out batters at a rate of 13.76 per nine innings. Among National League pitchers, only Chapman (15.74) topped that mark. Jansen also had 36 saves and a 2.41 ERA.
It wasn't just last year. Since Jansen became a full-time closer in 2012, he ranks third among Major League relievers with 8.3 wins above replacement (WAR), according to Fangraphs. He is also sixth in the Major Leagues with 133 saves in that span and boasts a 2.28 career ERA.
With numbers like that, not many hitters have had much success against him. Justin Turner is no different. Now Jansen's third baseman, Turner faced his current teammate five times when he was playing for the Mets.
Turner is 0-for-5 lifetime with three strikeouts against Jansen.
"I think I hit one ball to the warning track," Turner said. "I don't know who was playing left field that night, but he made a diving catch on the warning track and that's about as close as I've come to a hit."
Utley has been slightly better in a small sample size, going 1-for-3 with a double, but that was back in 2010. In 2016, neither Utley nor Turner nor anyone in Dodger blue has to worry about stepping into the box against one of the best in the game.
"You got some good closers out there, but I'll take him anytime," Crawford said. "I don't want to face him. I'm glad he's on my team."
Justin Emerson is a graduate student pursuing a masters degree in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.