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Entries in Kenley Jansen (4)

Saturday
Mar092013

Mo Makes Retirement after '13 official; Who's the next cutter king?

It's official: Mariano Rivera will retire following the 2013 season. The 43-year-old wants to go out hoisting his sixth World Series championship, not crumpling to the ground and tearing his ACL last while shagging fly balls in Kansas City. "The little gas I have left is for this year," Rivera told Jack Curry of YES Network. "After that, I have nothing left."

The story of how the undisputed cutter king discovered his deadly pitch has taken on mythological status. Rivera, playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza back in 1997, began putting bite on the ball that puzzled his fellow Panamanian. Since then, Mo has broken more timber than a Canadian lumberjack.

With Rivera set to check out after 2013, who among his late-inning brethren has the goods to be the next cutter king? Here are three such candidates.

  • Kenley Jansen throws the cutter almost exclusively (89% of his pitches in 2012), and he makes every opponent who gets the pitch look like he's swinging with balsa wood. Jansen held hitters to a MLB-worst .137 batting average and a .244 slugging percentage against his cutter last year. Hitters swung and missed 32% of the time against Jansen's cutter, also tops among relievers and far above the 23% big league average. One notable difference between Jansen and Mo: Pitch location. Rivera masterfully paints the corners with his cutter. Jansen, by contrast, says, "Here it is -- try and hit it."

Rivera's cutter location, 2010-12 

 

Jansen's cutter location, 2010-12

  • Rivera's set-up man has a not-too-shabby cutter of his own. David Robertson tossed the pitch about 54% of the time last season. He doesn't get near as many swings and misses with the cutter as Jansen (17.4%), but he pounds the zone. Robertson threw the pitch for a strike 68% of the time, well above the 64% average for relievers.
  • While Jason Motte isn't as much of a cutter connoisseur as Jansen and Robertson (he threw the pitch about 25% of the time last year), he's gradually relying more on the pitch to complement his upper-90s gas. He induced a swing and a miss 28% of the time with his cutter.

Sunday
Apr292012

Best Relief Pitchers with RISP

Min. 50 plate appearances with RISP (Click image to enlarge)

These pitchers have been the best in the majors when the opposing team is primed to score.  While Pittsburgh Pirates fans have seen just how good Jason Grilli has been over the past couple of seasons, the rest of the country may be surpised to see him at the top of this list. Grilli's wOBA has been 130 points lower when dealing with runners in scoring position.  In the 56 plate appearances where he has dealt with runners 180 feet or less from home, Grilli has allowed just three hits.  Only one of those was an extra base hit, a HR to Jimmy Rollins in July of last year.

Other notes: Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers holds the highest strikeout rate (47.5%) with RISP; Michael Wuertz has the highest wOBA at .511.

Thursday
Sep152011

Kenley Jansen's Cutter

Kenley Jansen will throw a cutter. You shall not hit that cutter. Maybe that's a bit simplistic, but it basically sumps up Jansen's 2011 season with the Dodgers. The former catcher, who led the Netherlands to an upset win over the Dominican Republic in 2009 by gunning out Willy Taveras on the base paths, has used his howitzer of a right arm to rack up 83 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched (15.6 K/9), the highest rate of Ks per nine innings pitched among relievers. And he's doing it with perhaps the nastiest cutter in the game this side of Mariano Rivera.

Jansen's cutter, thrown about 72 percent of the time, averages 93.1 mph and can climb as high as 97. He doesn't nibble with the pitch, choosing to challenge hitters in the zone:

 Frequency of Jansen's cutter location, 2011

Fifty-eight percent of Jansen's cutters have been thrown in the strike zone, well above the 51 percent league average for the pitch. Despite Jansen putting his cutters over the plate, hitters swing through the pitch at a startling rate. Check out hitters' contact rate by pitch location vs. Jansen's cutter, compared to the league average:

 Hitters' contact rate vs. Jansen's cutter, 2011

League average contact rate vs. cutters, 2011

Unless it's low, batters have no chance against Jansen's cutter. In fact, his 37 percent miss rate with the cutter is the highest in the majors and makes a mockery out of the 20-21 percent league average.

When hitters do make contact, they might as well be swinging a whiffle bat. They're not doing any damage:

Hitters' in-play slugging percentage vs. Jansen's cutter, 2011League average in-play slugging percentage vs. cutters, 2011Opponents are slugging .248 against Jansen's cutter (.394 league average). Paul Goldschmidt doubled on an 0-2 cutter from Jansen two days ago. It was the first extra-base hit Jansen surrendered with the pitch since May.

Since making his major league debut last July, Jansen has whiffed 14.9 batters per nine frames. That's the second-highest K rate in MLB history among relievers throwing 70+ innings during their first two seasons in the big leagues, according to Baseball-Reference (Craig Kimbrel is first). Talk about some serious Gouda.