Dodgers remove Craig Kimbrel from closer role

Dodgers remove Craig Kimbrel from closer role

craig kimberl
USA TSI

The Dodgers are 104-46 heading into Friday’s game against the Cardinals. They’ve already clinched the NL West and will most likely end up with the best record in baseball and the franchise record for wins in a season. They could even come close to the most wins in history (116, which they could tie if they win, though that’s unlikely).

What could derail them?

Well, ninth-inning problems would certainly be on the list of possibilities. On that front, manager Dave Roberts told reporters Friday that Craig Kimbrel has been removed from the closer’s role. Answers to possible questions:

  • Kimbrel seems to understand the play and wants to do what’s best for the team (via Dodgers Insider)
  • Roberts is not naming a new closer and will instead use multiple relievers in the role (via Juan Toribio)
  • Roberts has yet to discuss how they hope to deal with the role in the playoffs (via Bill Plunkett)

Kimbrel has saved 22 games of 27 chances, but that’s far from telling the whole story. He has a 4.14 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP, which are pretty terrible for a closer on a 100-plus-win team, but then again, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Control is an issue with 23 walks in 54 1/3 innings on top of hitting five batters and uncorking seven wild pitches. Night to night, you never know if Kimbrel will be able to throw strikes. The command is also a big deal. If he throws strikes, it still looks like he’s missing points. There is also inconsistency within the releases of him. He sometimes he can spot the fastball and sometimes he can’t. Sometimes it is the curve that he is locating (or not locating). It seems to vary from one outing to another, where they are left to figure out what shade is acceptable to wear that night.

As expected, the result has been inconsistency. There have been stretches where he gets zeros every night, but then stretches where he gives up at least one run in almost every start. The last cycle:

  • From August 4 to 16, Kimbrel appeared in five games and allowed runs in four.
  • He then had nine starts without scoring.
  • He has now allowed runs in three of his last four outings, giving up five runs (four earned) on three hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings.

As for ninth-inning options, Roberts has some good candidates. Evan Phillips has been brilliant almost all season. Lefties Alex Vesia and Caleb Ferguson have also been worthy of consideration. Chris Martin has been a standout since acquiring him at the trade deadline. Brusdar Graterol has the appearance of a great closer. Blake Treinen has been an elite closer before, though his health can’t be counted on right now and shouldn’t be counted on long-term right now.

Expect Roberts to play the back of the bullpen in the coming days as he hopes to drop into a good spot before they start the NLDS at home on October 11.

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