Week 1 of the new MLB season is in the books and, as usual, fans and the media are reacting in interesting ways. From new managers being crucified to some of the best players in baseball underperforming, it’s been an unusually interesting week in baseball. Welcome to the first edition of the Reaction Review, a new weekly feature on Six Man Rotation where I’ll highlight the biggest overreactions and under-reactions of the week and provide a dose of reality for each. Every reaction featured here is real, and more likely than not can be found on your social media platform of choice or in your favorite baseball publication. Let’s dive right in!
Gabe Kapler is a terrible manager
Chip Kelly: “I’m the worst professional coach Philadelphia has ever seen”
— Jason Boone (@jboone23) April 1, 2018
New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has had possibly the worst first week of any manager that’s ever stepped into a major league dugout. His first week was so bad that MLB had to give him a formal warning to be better in the future. Between burning through his bullpen like it’s the World Series and busting out extreme analytic-driven matchups (Gabermetrics) that haven’t paid off, it’s not hard to be reminded that Kapler is a rookie manager
Yes, Kapler has made some baffling decisions in his first week. Pulling his ace Aaron Nola after just 63 pitches against the Braves on Opening Day was strange. Nola had just given up a double and Kapler wanted the matchup play against lefty superstar Freddie Freeman (who has a 138 wRC+ against lefties over the past 3 seasons). Immediately following Freeman’s 2-run home run, Kapler started playing musical chairs with his bullpen and didn’t stop until the opening series was done. The decision to pull Nola was surprising, and it didn’t quite work out for the Phillies, but the decision wasn’t as bad as it seems on the surface.
Nola has some injury history, and only saw 18 innings across 5 starts in Spring Training so perhaps Kapler or the front office felt he wasn’t ready for an ace workload in the first game of the season. The bullpen should have been able to hold the 5-0 lead that Nola left with, period. The bigger issue for Kapler this week has been his bullpen management, but that is always a problem for rookie managers (and sometimes veteran managers, looking at you Mr. Maddon). His bullpen use in the first week was absolutely atrocious but I fully expect him to improve in that regard sooner rather than later. Don’t panic just yet Phillies fans, give your new boss a chance.
Kenley Jansen is just not executing
Dave Roberts on Kenley Jansen: “From everything I understand, he is 100-percent healthy.” Said Jansen is just not executing.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) April 3, 2018
The Dodgers stud closer has already equaled his total of blown saves from all of 2017 through a week of the new season. He’s cost the Dodgers several wins and doesn’t look like his usual shut down self that has had the media drawing comparisons to all time great closer Mariano Rivero.
Something is very wrong with Kenley Jansen. It’s normal for relief pitchers, especially closers to have off days. It’s extremely difficult to maintain the level of elite consistency that Jansen has for the past several years. But his struggles so far this season are far beyond just a cold streak. Over the past 5 seasons, Jansen’s signature cutter has averaged around 93.6 MPH and 3.2 inches of horizontal movement. So far in 2018, the average velocity on the cutter has fallen as low as 89 mph with little to no movement. Take a look at Chris Owings’ 3-run home run on Monday night and you’ll get a very strong sensation that you’re watching Kenley Jansen throw batting practice. In addition to the less than ideal results, Jansen could be seen rubbing his shoulder in the dugout during the Monday night tilt against the Diamondbacks.
For whatever reason, the Dodgers are being very hush hush about the current health and status of their All-Star closer, and there are more than enough warning signs to start worrying. Dave Roberts insists that there is a mechanic issue that is responsible for Jansen’s struggles, but the man himself disagrees, insisting in comments to the media that it definitely is not a mechanical issue. This seems to be a continuation of struggles that Jansen had at the end of spring training, where he averaged in the high 80s with his usually devastating cutter. There is a very high probability that Jansen is nursing an injury, and the uncertainty with which the Dodgers are handling this situation should raise numerous red flags.