Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers made a surprising move to acquire Craig Kimbrel from the Chicago White Sox for AJ Pollock on Friday morning.
L.A. now has an eight-time All-Star closer to replace Kenley Jansen while they also opened up room to give more playing time to Gavin Lux, and potentially for Edwin Rios, Jake Lamb and Kevin Pillar, as they each are battling for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
The move also allows Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to keep Blake Treinen in the fireman role while still having an established, lockdown closer for the ninth inning. The Dodgers’ previous plan was to go with a closer-by-committee approach.
Kimbrel, who has a fastball that averages just below 97 mph, is now part of a group of flamethrowers in the Dodgers bullpen that includes Treinen, Brusdar Graterol and Daniel Hudson, which caused some shock in the L.A. Angels clubhouse, according to Chelsea James of the Washington Post:
Currently in the Angels clubhouse where this trade has inspired nothing short of shock. Guys listed off names in the Dodgers bullpen, bemoaning the collective nastiness of their stuff. “Well, I quit,” one former All-Star declared. https://t.co/bq60UTdQzH
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) April 1, 2022
Kimbrel went a combined 4-5 with 24 saves and a 2.26 ERA for the Chicago Cubs and White Sox last season. He earned an eighth career All-Star Game selection and posted a 42.6% strikeout rate that was third-best in the Majors.
However, the right-hander did have most of his success with the Cubs. After being traded to the White Sox, Kimbrel went 2-2 with one save, a 5.09 ERA, 4.56 FIP and 1.22 WHIP over 24 games.
Despite his late season struggles when he wasn’t pitching in the closer role, Kimbrel still had some of the best pure stuff in baseball with fastball velocity that was still in the 90th percentile of pitchers and curveball and fastball spin rates that were also both above league average.
Kimbrel posted a near 60% swing and miss rate on his curveball, which led to being ranked in the top percentile of whiff percentage, the 99th percentile of strikeout rate and the 81st percentile of chase rate.
The 33-year-old was also at the top of the league last season in expected metrics for ERA (2.32), batting average (.158), slugging percentage (.268) and wOBA (.230).
Kimbrel ranked among top-10 relievers by The Shredder
Previously, the Dodgers did not have a relief pitcher ranked inside the top-10 by MLB Network’s The Shredder as Treinen just missed.
However, the addition of Kimbrel changes that as he was ranked No. 8 by the statistical model.
The Shredder places emphasis on FIP, strikeout rate, and Statcast metrics to compile annual rankings. The model focuses directly on a two-year sample for relief pitchers in particular, with 2021 performance given more weight in the calculations.
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