Danny Jansen inexplicably turns into an MVP-caliber player against the Yankees and we are here for it

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

Fair or not, expectations were high for Danny Jansen entering this season. Last year saw him break out on offence, setting a multitude of single-season personal highs, including home runs, RBI, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS.

What made this offensive production even more striking, was that Jansen achieved it during a staccato-esque season where he played just 72 games due to injuries. Regardless, combined with his excellent play-calling and superior defence behind the plate, Jansen was viewed as an ideal compliment to 2022 All-Star and Silver Slugger Alejandro Kirk.

In fact the Blue Jays showed enough confidence in Jansen, to trade away top catching prospect Gabriel Moreno. As such, Jansen's poor offensive start to the 2023 season was not what was hoped for or, arguably, expected.

What was wrong with Jansen?

There were concerns that the 28-year-old had been found out. As Jays Journal's Edward Eng wrote, pitchers were focusing on the outer and lower half of the plate to negate his fluid power swing.

This was making Jansen adjust to a swing he was less comfortable with, to protect the plate. The end result was more pop ups and fly outs.

Due to this, Jansen entered the Atlanta series with a poor slash line of .165/.250/.316 and a 566 OPS. He was still calling good games and playing excellent defence, but his offensive numbers projected to career-worsts over the course of a season.

The turning point

Fortunately for everyone concerned, the Atlanta series represented a turning point in the season for Jansen. Certainly, his walk-off two-run single in the series finale would have given him a lot of confidence.

In fact, the winning hit seems to have galvanized the 2013 16th round draft pick. Consider his offensive form during the New York Yankees series.

The Blue Jays may have lost the four-game series, but Jansen was one of the few bats who showed up every time he played. He had a hit in each of the three games he played, with none more important than during the home side's one win against the hated Yankees.

Wednesday's game had seen both sides shut out through nine innings. This all changed in extra innings however, as Jansen hit a walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th to clinch a 3-0 victory.

What is it about the Yankees?

Fans are well aware of the animosity between the Blue Jays and Yankees, fueling a passion to step up when the hated rivals face each other. However, Jansen in particular seems to turn it up a notch, almost metamorphosing into an MVP-caliber type of player versus the Bronx Bombers.

Consider that in 39 career games against the Yankees, Jansen has a slash line of .281/.385/.562 and an OPS of .947. Compare this to his Major League career stat line of .221/.303/.420 and .723. (All statistics as of May 20.)

Included in his career hitting numbers versus New York, the Elmhurt, Illinois native has hit nine home runs and 25 RBI. For some context, this would project to 37 blasts and 103 RBI over a full 162-game season. (He has also forced 19 walks, his most against any opponent during his six-year Major League career.)

Renewed vigour

Returning to this season specifically, while Jansen's offensive resurgence technically started against the Braves, facing the Yankees was just what the Doctor ordered. It has provided him with the necessary renewed belief in what he is capable of.

Consider that Jansen's fine form has continued into the Orioles series. The team might have lost the first two contests of the three-game set but at least he can say he is contributing (not that he would ever big himself up), with three hits, one home run and a couple of RBI.

As a whole, the right-handed bat's slash line on the season as of May 20, may still be underwhelming at .202/.269/.385 with a .654 OPS. However, at least he is moving in the right direction, thanks to a combined nine hits, two homers, and eight RBI in his past nine games.

Yes, nine games is still a relatively small sample size, but Jansen appears to have made the necessary adjustments with his bat and figured a few things out. Assuming this is the case, he will now return to his position of one of the better overall backup catchers in the Majors, in no small part helped by always playing big when he faces the Yankees.