Dodgers remove struggling Craig Kimbrel from the tight end role

Craig Kimbrell

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

What could derail them?

Well, problems with the ninth would definitely 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 move 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 would not yet discuss how they hope to tackle the role in the playoffs (via Bill Plunkett)

Kimbrel has saved 22 games in 27 chances, but that’s far from telling the whole story. He has a 4.14 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, which are pretty terrible for a 100+ win closer, but, again, those don’t tell the whole story.

Control is a problem with 23 walks in 54 1/3 innings in addition to striking out five batters and striking out seven wild pitches. From night to night, you never know if Kimbrel will be able to throw strikes. Command is also a big problem. If he does throw strikes, he seems to be missing spots. There is also inconsistency in his pitches. Sometimes he can spot the fastball and sometimes he can’t. Sometimes it’s the curve that locates (or doesn’t locate). It seems to vary from tour to tour where they are left to figure out which pitch is acceptable to use that night.

As expected, the result was inconsistency. There have been stretches where he gets zeroes on a nightly basis, but then gives up where he gives up at least one run in almost every outing. The last circle:

  • From August 4 to August 16, Kimbrel appeared in five games and allowed runs in four.
  • He then went nine scoreless outings.
  • He has now given up 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.

In terms of ninth-round picks, Roberts has some good candidates. Evan Phillips has been brilliant almost all season. Lefties Alex Vesia and Caleb Ferguson are also worthy of attention. Chris Martin has been outstanding since being acquired at the trade deadline. Brusdar Graterol has the look and feel of a closer time. Blake Treinen has been an elite closer in the past, though his health can’t be counted on right now and shouldn’t be counted on for the long term at this point.

Expect Roberts to play the back-end of the bullpen over the next few days as he hopes to hit a good spot before they begin the NLDS at home on October 11th.

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