Celebrating Kenley Jansen’s 400th Save By Ranking His Most Important Saves

Jansen has had a hand in many of baseball's top moments of the 2010s.

Kenley Jansen collected his 400th career save last night against the Atlanta Braves – a crowning achievement in a long career that has had its fair share of highs and lows. Jansen gave up one hit and collected one strikeout in the 5-2 Red Sox victory to gather the save, and he now sits at seventh all-time in career saves.



He’s having an excellent debut season with Boston with nine saves on the year and a 0.77 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. It’s conceivable he could move into the top five by season’s end, and at 35 years old, if he can keep chugging along for a few more seasons, could end up in the top three all-time and maybe even in Cooperstown someday.


Career Saves Leaders

Jansen has had his ups and downs throughout his career, but it is undeniable that it has been a remarkable journey. Over the past 13 years, Jansen has pitched in multiple All-Star and World Series games and has become the all-time leader in saves for one of baseball’s most historic franchises.

Let’s look back at Jansen’s career and highlight some of his biggest saves.

Jansen, a native of Curaçao, was signed as an undrafted free-agent catcher by the Dodgers in 2004 and had some initial success that season. He played 37 games for the Rookie Class Gulf Coast Dodgers and hit .304/.339/.441 in 102 ABs. By 2007, he had made his way to Rookie Single-A ball and hit .240 with two home runs and 22 RBI in 53 games. He did eventually advance to Triple-A in 2009 but did not have much success there either, hitting .185 in eight games.

Then about halfway through the 2009 season, the Dodgers made a decision that would turn out to be one of the smarter decisions in baseball history when they converted Jansen to a pitcher. He made his minor league pitching debut on July 30, 2009, and after struggling as a catcher for parts of five seasons, Jansen would be in the major leagues as a pitcher less than a year later.

Jansen was called up to the majors on July 23, 2010, and entered the game on July 25, 2010, with his first save opportunity on the line.

This first save is obviously one of his most important, and after the unique start to his baseball career, unexpected.

First Career Save – July 25, 2010

The clip of his first save features the Dodgers’ legendary broadcaster, Vin Scully, describing how Jansen had only been pitching for a year and wondering aloud if the “big fella” who can throw fast would also be able to throw strikes.

Fortunately for Dodgers fans, he did end up throwing strikes (eight out of 15 total pitches) to capture the save and preserve the 1-0 victory over the Mets. He appeared in 25 games during his rookie season and finished the year with four saves, a 1-0 record and a 0.67 ERA.



162nd Career Save – June 20, 2016

Jansen emerged as the Dodgers’ primary closer during the 2012 season. That year he went 5-3 and saved 25 games while collecting 99 strikeouts in 65 IP. He also had an excellent 2.35 ERA and 0.85 WHIP.

By the start of the 2016 season, Jansen had reeled off four straight seasons of 25+ saves. In these four seasons, he had a cumulative ERA of 2.33, a WHIP of 0.91, and a staggering 391 strikeouts in 259.1 IP (13.6 SO/9). As the 2016 season crept closer to summer, Jansen was climbing closer to the top of the Dodgers’ all-time saves list.

On June 20, Jansen saved his 20th game of the 2016 season, in a 4-1 victory over the Nationals. This was the 162nd save of his career which made him the all-time franchise leader. He broke the previous record of 161, held by Eric Gagne.



2017 World Series: Game 6 – October 31, 2017

Jansen was a major contributor to Los Angeles’ success in the 2010s. Starting in 2013 and until the end of Jansen’s Dodgers career in 2021, LA made the playoffs every season. They dominated the NL West by winning eight straight division titles from 2013 – 2020 and appearing in six National League Championship Series and three World Series.

Although baseball fans may look back at Jansen’s Dodgers career and remember some postseason collapses in later seasons (Jansen holds the unfortunate record of most blown saves in World Series history with four), the consistent regular season success of his early career did carry over to the playoffs.

He converted his first 12 postseason save opportunities, which set a new major league record and didn’t blow a save until Game 2 of the 2017 World Series. The Dodgers ended up losing that game to the Astros in 11 innings. However, Jansen bounced back on baseball’s biggest stage with a dominant two-inning save to cement the victory in Game 6 and push the series to its limit. He threw 18 of his 19 pitches for strikes and struck out three.



2020 NLCS Game 6 – October 17, 2020

The Dodgers were back in the NLCS in 2020 battling the Atlanta Braves.

Walker Buehler faced off against Max Fried in Game 6 with the Braves holding a 3-2 advantage in the series. In the top of the first inning, the Dodgers got to Fried early as Corey Seager and Justin Turner hit back-to-back solo home runs and Cody Bellinger knocked in an additional run. That was all the scoring the Dodgers needed.

Walker Buehler went six innings, scattering seven hits without allowing a run, and striking out six. In the top of the seventh, Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen allowed a run as the Braves pulled within two. Pedro Báez kept the Dodgers’ lead at 3-1 with a scoreless eighth inning before Jansen entered the game in the ninth.

His defense helped him out as Joc Pederson made a diving catch for the first out. Jansen then got two flyouts to ice the game and record the save as the Dodgers pushed the World Series to seven games. In the deciding game seven, LA beat Atlanta 4-3 to win the franchise’s seventh World Series title.



First Save Against the Dodgers – April 19, 2022

After 12 memorable seasons with the Dodgers, Jansen signed a one-year contract with the Braves in March 2022. It ended a remarkable career in LA, as Jansen left the franchise as the all-time leader in games played (701), WHIP (0.93), strikeouts per 9 IP (13.05), and of course, saves (350). He more than doubled the old franchise record and ended his Dodgers career as one of the best closers of all time.

Early in the 2022 season, Jansen made his first appearance back at Dodger Stadium as a member of the Braves. In a bizarre scene for baseball fans, Jansen faced all-time Braves great Freddie Freeman, who was now a member of the Dodgers. Jansen forced Freeman to fly out and locked down the save.


Honorable Mention:
2021 National League Wild Card Game – October 6, 2021

Although Jansen did not get the save, he got a very important win in the elimination Wild Card game, as he struck out the side in the ninth inning. This victory propelled the Dodgers to a playoff run that concluded with another NLCS appearance.




Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Rich von Biberstein/ Icon Sportswire

Nate Kosher

Nate Kosher is based in the Twin Cities and is a staff writer for Pitcher List. He grew up watching low-budget Twins teams at the Metrodome before eventually converting to the Arizona Diamondbacks (the power of teal and purple in the 1990s). His goal is to someday visit all 30 MLB ballparks and he believes Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame. You can read more of Nate's writing in his newsletter, The Relief Pickle.

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