Dodgers Remove Craig Kimbrel From Closer Role

The Dodgers will take a tighter committee approach for the rest of the regular season, manager Dave Roberts has told reporters (including Fabien Ardaya athletics). Craig Kimbrel will pitch in different roles as the club take a varying approach to the ninth inning depending on the clashes.

Roberts hasn’t guaranteed he’ll stick to the committee’s approach during the playoffs, though it’s hard to imagine the Dodgers removing Kimbrel from the closing role for the final 12 games of the season. regular before reinstalling him in ninth at the start of the playoffs. The decision comes following a drop in production for the eight-time All-Star, who has given up points in three of his last four outings. This includes an equalizer circuit for christian walker to blow a save opportunity yesterday against the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers still exited the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, but the lost lead finalized the team’s decision to take a more flexible approach with the playoffs on the horizon.

Kimbrel is in his first season as a Dodger. Acquired from the White Sox in a surprising one-for-one trade with AJ Pollock just before Opening Day, he made 57 appearances. Kimbrel certainly wasn’t disastrous. He boasts a 4.14 ERA over 54 1/3 innings, knocking out 27.2 percent of over-average opponents. His walk rate of 9.6% is a little higher than the league mark but not an untenable number. He made 22 of his 27 save attempts. The right-hander’s overall production was good if unspectacular.

Nonetheless, Kimbrel clearly hasn’t played at the level the Dodgers were hoping for. The 34-year-old was arguably the game’s best reliever in the first half of last season with the Cubs. Although he disappointed after a deadline trade with the White Sox – largely due to home run issues – he still generated puffs on an excellent 17.2% of his offers with the South Siders . It raised hopes that Kimbrel could continue to throw at an elite level in a new environment, but this season’s swinging 12.1% strike rate is only slightly better than average.

Removing Kimbrel from the ninth inning should allow Roberts to be more sensible with his use once the playoffs roll around. Maximizing his work against right-handed hitting numbers should be a priority. Kimbrel has held same-handed batters to a .208/.296/.307 line in 115 plate appearances this season; left-handers, on the other hand, hit a much more robust .266/.355/.431 in 124 trips.

The White Sox optioned Kimbrel for $16 million this season before trading him to Los Angeles. He’s in the final weeks of that deal and will hit free agency for the second time in his career this offseason. In the meantime, he will be part of one of the best replacement corps in the game.

That the Dodgers feel equipped to come closer throughout the ninth inning career is a testament to the strength of the rest of their bullpen. Los Angeles comes into play Friday with the second-lowest ERA of the majors (2.94) and the fourth-best strikeout percentage (26.5%). Evan Phillips, a waiver request from the Rays last August, almost immediately emerged as one of the best relievers in the game. The slider specialist has a 1.24 ERA with a 31.8% strikeout rate over 58 innings during his breakout campaign. Lead flame thrower Brusdar Graterol rode a whopping 63.5% rushed ball percentage at a 2.96 ERA. Vesting deadline Chris Martin has a 1.71 mark with a laughable 26:1 batting ratio since landing in Los Angeles. left-handed Alex Vesia has the best strikeout rate in the bullpen (34.6%) and a 2.24 ERA in 51 2/3 frames.

This quartet looks the most likely to take on the highest leverage job in the playoffs. Roberts can also call on Kimbrel, Phil Bickford and Tommy Kahnle on the right side, while Caleb Ferguson and rehabilitation David Price are left-handed options. Yency Almonte had a great season and is in rehab with Triple-A Oklahoma City, and there is still a possibility of Blake Treinen make a playoff return (although Treinen is currently on the injured list and continues to struggle with shoulder discomfort).


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