Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
One day after indicating there would be continued evaluation, manager Dave Roberts announced Craig Kimbrel has been removed from his role as closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The decision comes with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season as the club prepares for the postseason with World Series expectations.
After the Dodgers’ walk-off win against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, Roberts hinted at the possibility of making a change at closer following Kimbrel’s shaky appearance that included hitting a batter and allowing a home run.
Roberts spoke to the veteran reliever about his new role and told him he would be used in different innings and situations, which Kimbrel is open to.
“I think the thing is, he’s such a professional, knows that there’s more in there, there’s more consistency and the openness to do whatever is best,” Roberts said. “My job is to find the best lanes for him. He has no worries of the routine or something he’s always done.
“He more looks at it as a challenge, and that’s the way that we would expect. It speaks a lot to him as a teammate.”
For the time being, the Dodgers will not have a set closer to replace Kimbrel and will determine who pitches the ninth inning based on the matchups. “No,” answered Roberts when asked if a new Dodgers closer will be put in place.
“I think for us, it’s kind of treating him like we treat all of our guys in the sense of putting him in the best position to get outs. That’s kind of how I’m going to approach every inning for the ‘pen.”
If the Dodgers decide to name a new closer before the playoffs, Evan Phillips would seem to be the favorite, but he also provides a lot of value in the fireman role. Other options who could find themselves in save situations include Chris Martin, Alex Vesia, Brusdar Graterol, Tommy Khanle and potentially Blake Treinen if he can get healthy.
However, if the Dodgers opt for a closer-by-committee approach, Roberts isn’t worried about that.
“It’s kind of the whole mindset of, just because you’ve always done something one way doesn’t make it right,” he said. “It might not be traditional, but I’m not too concerned.”
Roberts would not commit to saying this is how the team will manage their bullpen in the postseason, but it seems likely after the skipper said a few days ago they were going to begin adjusting roles to prepare for October baseball.
“That’s where we’re at right now,” Roberts said. “Nothing is cemented, but I think that’s the best way to go about it right now.”
This season, Kimbrel has saved 22 games in 27 attempts with a 4.14 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. The 34-year-old is on pace to set the second-highest ERA of his career, the third-worst WHIP and his 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings would be the lowest mark of his career.
Why did the Dodgers remove Craig Kimbrel as closer?
While the stats speak for themselves about Kimbrel’s lack of effectiveness this season, there are also some concerning underlying trends. He has seen his average fastball velocity drop by 1.4 mph from its peak in June (96.5 mph) to 95.1 mph in September.
Kimbrel’s hard-hit rate on his breaking ball has trended up for five consecutive months, going from 23.1% in May to 71.4% in September, while also rising on his fastball from 35.7% in May to 46.7% now. In addition, his command has been shaky as he has only thrown his fastball in the zone at a 53.9% rate and his breaking ball 40.5% of the time.
Roberts has previously stated the team will utilize the players who are performing the best once they get closer to playoff baseball, and despite a short turnaround for Kimbrel, he has not performed to expectations.
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