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Dodgers Remove Struggling Craig Kimbrel From Closer Role

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Craig Kimbrel
USATSIA

The evaders are 104-46 going into Friday’s game against the Cardinals. They have already conquered the NL West and will most likely finish with the best record in baseball and franchise record for wins in a season. They could even approach the most wins ever (116, which they could equate if they win, although that’s unlikely).

What could derail them?

Well, problems in the ninth inning would certainly be on the list of possibilities. In that regard, manager Dave Roberts told reporters on Friday that: Craig Kimbrel has been removed from the role of poet. Answers to possible questions:

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

Kimbrel saved 22 games in 27 chances, but that doesn’t say it all. He has a 4.14 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, which is pretty terrible for a closer on a 100+ win team, but again, those don’t tell the whole story.

Control is an issue with 23 walks in 54 1/3 inning in addition to hitting five batters and uncorking seven wild pitches. Night to night you never know if Kimbrel will be able to launch attacks. Command is also a big problem. When he does throw strikes, he still seems to be missing spots. There is also inconsistency in his pitches. Sometimes he can locate the fastball and sometimes he can’t. Sometimes it’s the curve that it locates (or doesn’t locate). It seems to vary from outing to outing, leaving them to figure out which pitch is acceptable to use that evening.

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Unsurprisingly, the result was inconsistency. There have been pieces where he gets zeroes overnight, but then there are pieces where he gives up at least one run almost every outing. The last cycle:

  • From August 4 through 16, Kimbrel played in five games and gave up runs in four.
  • He then went on nine scoreless outings.
  • He has now given up runs in three of his last four appearances, giving up five runs (four earned) on three hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings.

As for the options in the ninth inning, Roberts has some good candidates. Evan Phillips has been brilliant for most of the season. left-handers Alex Vesia and Caleb Ferguson have also been worth considering. Chris Martin is outstanding since its acquisition on the trading deadline. Brusdar Graterol has the look and feel of a large valve. Blake Trains has been an elite before, although his health cannot be counted on at the moment and not in the long run either.

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

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