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Fantasy Baseball Today

Ugly start obscuring same-old Kenley Jansen

By Chris Towers | CBSSports.com

Kenley Jansen's ugly start still offers hope. (USATSI)
Kenley Jansen's ugly start still offers hope. (USATSI)

With a 5.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP after nine innings of work, it is fair to say Kenley Jansen's first two-plus weeks of action this season have not gone as planned.

Fantasy owners have to be frustrated by Jansen, who was projected to be one of the league's elite closers. He has allowed a run in five of 11 appearances, while blowing two saves, tying him for second-most in the league. He is still owned in 96 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, so owners aren't jumping offboard en masse, but he might be a few more subpar outings away from some impatient owners starting to look for other options.

Jansen was one of the hardest pitchers in the league to make contact with over the previous two seasons, but has already surrendered 13 hits in nine innings of work. Fortunately for Fantasy owners who are frustrated by this start, there is plenty of evidence to suggest Jansen is on the verge of turning things around.

Though it seems like he has turned into an exceedingly-hittable pumpking seemingly overnight, Jansen has actually been pretty much exactly the pitcher we expected. Though batters have raced up plenty of hits, he has largely baffled them this season. He has struck out 17 hitters in nine innings of work, leading all relievers by a wide margin. Jansen has induced a swing-and-miss on a career-high 17.2 percent of his pitches, indicating he is still as baffling as ever when viewed from the batter's box

What is sinking Jansen so far is a truly ludicrous .524 batting average on balls in play, the kind of number that is laughably unsustainable even if batters do tend to square up his pitches when they do make contact -- see his 25.0 percent line drive rate and two home runs in nine innings. He allowed a .273 BABIP a year ago despite allowing line drives on 24.1 percent of batted balls, so this is one situation where a single outlier can pretty much explain everything.

Jansen is being outperformed by a whole host of run-of-the-mill relievers right now, including guys like LaTroy Hawkins, Shawn Kelley and Francisco Rodriguez. Given his track record and how often he is still making professional baseball hitters look silly even now, this might be exactly the time to buy low on Jansen.

Even with this hideous start on his record, Jansen's role seems pretty safe. There is still an elite closer hidden behind these ugly numbers, and smart Fantasy owners will want to be there to ride Jansen when the inevitable turnaround comes. Remember, Jansen didn't even have the closer's role to himself until June of last season and still managed to rack up 28 saves and a 1.88 ERA.

 
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