Craig Kimbrel Hopes Pitching As Dodgers Closer Yields Better Results

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Last season, new Los Angeles Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel was once again among the game’s most dominant pitchers and earned his eighth career All-Star Game selection while he was with the Chicago Cubs.

Kimbrel threw 36.2 innings in his usual closer role as a member of the Cubs and posted a 0.49 ERA, 1.10 FIP and 2.3 WAR while striking out just shy of 16 batters per nine innings and walking just above three hitters per nine.

After being traded to the Chicago White Sox, however, Kimbrel was moved out of the closer role and struggled. He posted a 5.09 ERA, 4.56 FIP, and 0 WAR in 23 innings while his strikeouts per nine dropped by nearly two batters per nine and walks rose to almost four per nine.

Now Kimbrel is looking to put those struggles behind him and hopes that returning to his usual role will help him become a dominant reliever again as the Dodgers’ closer, via SportsNetLA:

“I showed up to camp to do whatever job I was going to be asked to do. That was my mindset coming into camp. I knew the situation I was in, and that’s been my mindset. Coming over here, my mindset is going to be a little bit different. I’m going to be able to put some shoes on that I know the fit. Hopefully that turns into good results.”

Despite his late struggles in 2021, MLB’s active saves leader still finished the season with 24 saves and a 2.26 ERA while posting a 42.6% strikeout rate that was third-best in the Majors.

Kimbrel also still had some of the best pure stuff in baseball with fastball velocity that was still in the 90th percentile of pitchers and spin rates that were also both above league average.

The right-hander 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).

Angels clubhouse shocked by Kimbrel trade

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 Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol and Daniel Hudson, whichcaused some shock in the L.A. Angels clubhouse.

The trade also allows Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to keep 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.

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