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  1. Now this is a cool story bro.

    Comment by William — November 30, 2011 @ 11:16 am

  2. Interesting story. I wonder if you could get PitchFX data or something to see if he’s just super good at staying out over the corners, if there’s some really unusual action, or what. Interesting- thanks!

    Comment by wiggly — November 30, 2011 @ 11:29 am

  3. It’s a straight-up nasty pitch that will only improve in effectiveness as he continues to learn how to be a pitcher and further develops his slider

    I’ll take that bet – I don’t think his fastball will ever be that effective again, because he just set an alltime record. Guys who set all time records don’t generally continue to improve. He could have a hell of a good career and never approach 2011 numbers again.

    Or maybe he is the new Rivera? One pitch, in the zone, can’t hit it. Sounds familiar, and like a good reason not to mess with it until required.

    Comment by test — November 30, 2011 @ 11:35 am

  4. His fastball is a cutter that’s very close to Mariano’s in terms of movement, but he throws it in the mid-90s.

    Comment by Scott — November 30, 2011 @ 11:54 am

  5. His cut fastball is virtually unhittable. He makes really good hitters (from both sides of the plate) take terrible swings, even freezing them when they already know the pitch is coming. It actually sits at 94-96, sometimes dialing up to 98. And the slider has a huge break and is usually 82-85.

    Comment by The Dude Abides — November 30, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

  6. He set an all time record in what was officially his rookie season. Yeah! I’m sure he’s peaked! Good bet! I would avoid Vegas if I where you!

    Comment by SKob — November 30, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

  7. Not to ruin my own deep sleepers, but I’m told Shawn Tolleson has the stuff to be the best reliever in Dodgerland.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — November 30, 2011 @ 12:13 pm

  8. I don’t think it’s a cutter. Pitchers that throw over the top and very hard tend to have very straight fastballs. I think that while PitchF/X may call it a cutter, I think it’s more likely that it’s just a straight-as-an-arrow fastball. A straight-as-an-arrow fastball that apparently no one can hit.

    Comment by Bryz — November 30, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

  9. I am not saying that Jansen will definitely never do this again.

    BUT, everyone recognizes the volatility of relievers, and how guys can go from amazing to not-so-amazing real quick. Halfway through this season, the Tigers’ Al Alburquerque was the one on pace to set the K/9 record. Then he suddenly fell off pace. It happens for relievers.

    If Jansen could somehow sustain this for many years, he would be among the best relievers of all time. No one should be ready to be that committed to Jansen yet.

    Comment by RationalSportsFan — November 30, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

  10. uh well i suppose that kind of pitcher does tend to do that but if this particular dude is throwing the fastball 90% of the time and it’s in the zone and he still set the all-time K9 record i’m going to suggest the possibility that his fastball is unusual in some way

    i know it sounds crazy

    there must be a way to find out. has anybody seen video of this guy. are the dodgers on TV

    Comment by wily mo — November 30, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

  11. I don’t know how he does it, but he just has the amazing ability to shut the door. I believe it was Kershaw’s last 2 starts, he got into trouble in the 8th inning putting 2 runners on both times with 1 out, and Kenley came in and there was absolutely no shot because he blazed the fastball by them. They were great moments.

    Comment by Ivdown — November 30, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

  12. Catcher turned reliever with a good fastball? Motte.

    Comment by Anon — November 30, 2011 @ 12:32 pm


    He’s jumped from Rookie ball to AA in a year’s time. I believe he’s also doing it with a cutter as one of his pitches. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him in the majors by June or July at least as a cup of coffee.

    Comment by Ivdown — November 30, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  14. Oh, and Motte is doing this after being scouted by MLB teams. Don’t trust rookie stats.

    Comment by Anon — November 30, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  15. But he doesn’t throw over the top. Look at his release point at TexasLeaguers Pitch F/X. It’s virtually identical to Mariano’s.

    Isn’t it pretty widely recognized and discussed by Kenley himself that it’s a cutter?

    Comment by Paul — November 30, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

  16. And as much as he dominates LH batters, last season he struck out 49% of RHers. That’s definitely not a fluke.

    Comment by Paul — November 30, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  17. As a Dodger fan, I can tell you, it’s not a straight fastball. It looks like a cutter, and he calls it a cutter.

    Comment by Table — November 30, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

  18. I agree here and think that SKob is delusional – if you think the man can IMPROVE on his >16 strikeout rate, try again. Yes he will have more experience as a pitcher, but the league will also have more of a report on his stuff and movement. It is so incredibly unlikely that he repeats this season (and I am avoiding the word fluke) that I would certainly go to Vegas with it.

    I generally advise against betting in favour of ALL TIME records. Do you also think that Matt Kemp will go 50/50 next year, because he is still improving?

    Comment by exxrox — November 30, 2011 @ 1:13 pm


    Comment by mattsd — November 30, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

  20. The term cutter is often a term of art. Mariano Rivera’s “cutter” is really a four-seam fastball with late movement that sinks and darts away from a righthanded batter. No one taught him the grip and said, “This is a cutter.” It’s a pitch that Rivera discovered organically. Rivera did not set out to throw a cutter. He simply was fooling around with different grips, which pitchers do all the time, and just throwing a good ol’ fashioned four-seam fastball. He discovered that when he threw his four-seamer with a slightly off-centered grip, it had nasty late movement. Hence, the “cutter” was born, although Rivera didn’t call it a cutter at the time.

    The same sort of thing happened with Kenley. His “cutter” is his two-seam fastball. He discovered that his natural two-seamer had cutter like action. Again, it was an organic discovery, not something he intended to accomplish.

    The reality is that pitchers have been throwing cutters for a long, long time. We just didn’t call them cutters. They were fastballs with late, slider-like movement. And some pitchers are just more blessed than others with having more natural movement on their fastballs, which is why everyone who throws a cutter doesn’t have the same success with the pitch as Mariano Rivera or Roy Halladay.

    What sets Rivera apart from virtually any other pitcher not named Halladay is his utter command of the cutter. And that utter command is due to Rivera’s ability to repeat the same fluid mechanical motion over and over again. Kenley Jansen has not been able to do that in his very brief career as a pitcher. Unlike Rivera, Jansen’s mechanics break down far too often.

    Unless Jansen can become more consistent with his mechanics, I suspect he will have a very brief career. He has sufficient velocity and movement to live off of his “cutter” as a short reliever. But unless he develops better command and reduces his risk of injury, his career will probably be similar to Joel Zumaya’s.

    Comment by Greg — November 30, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

  21. Throughout most of his career, Rivera’s “cutter” consistently traveled 94 to 96 mph. Watch a tape of him in the memorable 7th game in the 2003 ALCS against Boston (the Aaron Boone game). He threw three innings, and his cutter consistently was hitting 95 mph on the radar gun. The dude was nasty.

    Comment by Greg — November 30, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

  22. Considering that for a reliever, having a pitch that the rest of the league isn’t used to seeing is an advantage, and they learn how to hit it better as they see it more, yes, it is likely that it’s effectiveness has peaked. Usually all time records require everything to go right— the pitcher has to have a unique combination of effectiveness, advantages they don’t control, and luck to do it— so one shouldn’t say that it’s likely a pitcher will repeat a record breaking performance.

    Comment by Bip — November 30, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

  23. ‘Sup from MSTI

    Comment by Bip — November 30, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  24. I was at the game for the best one of those, the one against the Giants. Kershaw started the eighth inning, got one out, but allowed I think two baserunners, so Mattingly pulled him and brought in Jansen. Jansen struck out Carlos Beltran and Pablo Sandoval on 7 pitches to end the inning. The best part of that was that it was for Kershaw’s 20th win, and that Jansen was Kershaw’s catcher for some of the time he was in the minors.

    Comment by Bip — November 30, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

  25. That inning was absolutely nerve wrecking. Besides in the playoffs game 2 NLDS against the Cards, I’ve never ever been more nervous at a game.

    Comment by Ivdown — November 30, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

  26. Regarding Jansen and Mo, a much more apt comparison would be David Robertson:

    Rivera: 91.8
    Robertson: 92.5
    Jansen: 93.7

    Horizontal spin deflection
    Rivera: +2.7
    Robertson: +0.4
    Jansen: +0.5

    Vertical spin deflection
    Rivera: +7.0
    Robertson: +10.5
    Jansen: +10.6

    Comment by Lucas Apostoleris — November 30, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  27. BTW, in an attempt to strip out biases, I took those values for a) road games only and b) pitches with the Gameday ID “cutter” for Rivera but “cutter” or “four-seam fastball” for Robertson and Jansen (MLBAM uses both tags for those pitches).

    Comment by Lucas Apostoleris — November 30, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

  28. Apparently Jansen is a lefthander. Throwing a baseball is the only thing he does with his right hand. It may seem far-fetched but this may be a factor in his delivery that causes his fastball to behave in a particularly unique way.

    Comment by bill — November 30, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

  29. You know what, no.That’s garbage. I pulled up some video of him pitching. Its the spitting image of Mariano Rivera. The ball has a little less sink but more velocity. Same easy delivery, straight-arm motion, long stride – everything. Its simply a superior cut fastball.

    Comment by bill — November 30, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  30. Great article. I don’t know a lot about hitters switching to pitchers, but could he possibly attribute this nasty fastball to his catching somehow?

    Comment by YazInLeft8 — November 30, 2011 @ 6:31 pm

  31. I think it would be very odd if Kenley through a two seam fastball that tailed away from right handed hitters. A two seamer from a righty will generally til in towards right handed batters whereas a “cutter” is pretty much any high velocity pitch that breaks in towards a left handed hitters hand from a right handed pitcher.

    Comment by Craig — November 30, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

  32. To craig: to throw a two seamer a pitcher places his fingers along the seams of the ball, not across them. In order to make the ball move in to a RHB, from a RHP, a pitcher moves his fingers to the right of the seams. This causes more pronation as you release the pitch, which “turns the ball over” and makes it sink. By doing the opposite, or moving your fingers to the left of the seams, it causes your hand to stay on the side of the ball, releasing it with almost spiral spin. This results in a two seamer that cuts in to a lefty.

    Comment by Bob — November 30, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

  33. To Bob: Not sure why that comment would be to me. That is basically what I said. Cutters move away from RHB. It may still be a 2-seam fastball, which is why I put cutter in quotes. My comment still applies. It can be the same pitch but just has a different title.

    Comment by Craig — December 1, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

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