Can Dodgers Succeed in Playoffs With Craig Kimbrel as Closer?

While the Los Angeles Dodgers have been the focus on nearly every potential trade chip so far this summer, adding a reliable reliever or two to the bullpen has been one of the most popular topics of discussion across the baseball blogosphere.

Even the most informed reporters and analysts in the media have a difficult time predicting trades without a reliable source of inside information. It’s hard to hypothesize how a rival general manager views their team’s needs, much less the actual trade value of the player departing. Occasionally, we’ll see a deal reported as a sure thing reach an impasse because both sides are unable to arrive at an agreement.

One of the big questions right now is whether the Dodgers have enough firepower to succeed through the 2022 playoffs and World Series. It’s probably safe to say that the offense is there, so long as the majority of the regular players stay healthy and don’t fall into an extended slump when the playoffs roll around.

The same can be said for a healthy starting rotation, even if Walker Buehler isn’t built back up my mid-October. With the offense in stride, a quartet of Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson just might be good enough to get the job done.

However, the bullpen might be a different story. Without any significant trade deadline upgrades, it might be impossible to overcome the injuries that have plagued the team all season. Daniel Hudson is out for the year, and it’s probably unsafe to assume that Blake Treinen, Tommy Kahnle and Dustin May can return without any hitches.

An even bigger question is whether Craig Kimbrel can hold down the closer’s role and maintain his effectiveness throughout the playoffs. We know Treinen can fill in for Kimbrel on a given night, but if Treinen doesn’t come back at 100%, will the emerging Evan Phillips and Yency Almonte have what it takes to carry the team the distance?

There has been no rhyme or reason to Kimbrel’s inconsistency this year. His ERA has been as high as 4.82, reminiscent of his worst year with the Cubs in 2019, even though that campaign was plagued with elbow and knee injuries.

Although Kimbrel has recorded 17 saves in 20 chances this season, his three blown saves and four losses have stung Dodger fans everywhere, causing them to hold their collective breath each time he takes the mound. His poor performances have come against both decent teams and some of the worst clubs in the league.

The Diamondbacks, for example, have been especially hard on Kimbrel. In four appearances and a full four innings of work, Arizona has hammered the veteran for six earned runs on six hits, two walks, a hit batsman and one long ball.

Obviously, the Dodgers will face much higher quality opponents in the playoffs.

The good news is that skipper Dave Roberts — and his superiors — has shown they’re willing to do whatever it takes to bring home a World Championship, see Urias’s bullpen heroics in the 2020 World Series.

Nevertheless, without any proven and reliable options back there, one wonders if the existing relief crew can perform good enough in this year’s playoffs, especially if Treinen doesn’t return to form.

38 thoughts on “Can Dodgers Succeed in Playoffs With Craig Kimbrel as Closer?

  1. The playoffs are at most 3 games in a row. So time to reset guys. The Dodgers know the medical condition of their IL players and their prognosis. Phillips and Almonte have made an impressive impact. If u have Phillips, Almonte, Vesia and May available along with Treinen. Is that enough? The answer will be in a few days. I have very carefully watched Kimbrel. He routinely misses the catchers target. If he can’t regain proper pitch control he can’t be trusted to close. He continues to miss low and wide. When he brings the pitch up they hit it as it loses movement. Bad news in a reliever. I would be very tempted to give Pepiot and or Miller some relief opportunities or Stone as he relieved in college l. All three have great swing and miss ability.

  2. I would not want to depend on Kimbrel to get us a WS title. Not saying he absolutely couldn’t do it, but I sure wouldn’t want to depend on it.

    I’d like to see us get a guy with closer experience who is controllable beyond this year. We don’t know what we can expect out of Treinen but even assuming he comes back in good shape, he’s better off in high leverage situations anyway, not necessarily just the 9th inning.

    I’ll leave it up to AF to identify the guy, but we need to add someone by Tuesday that we can trust to close games. At this point, Craig Kimbrel is not that guy.

  3. Baseball is a game of stats. Why go with a”Closer”? Why not take the 3 players up next and pick the pitchers with the best probable outcome? The teams have the data…

    1. Your theory might be fine to start a season, but I just don’t want to go into the playoffs by experimenting with the closer position. The other side of that argument is certainly valid, but I prefer more certainty in the playoffs.

      1. There are 64 ? games left in the season? That would give them a lot of time to perfect it or at least see if it is viable. Unless they have a plan to get Kimbrel to figure out his problem as they did with Jansen they need to have a plan B. What is interesting to me is that people always want the bright shiny thing. The newest car, the best closer, Soto, but in many situations it is not a feasible business plan long term. Friedman was a Wall Street guy they hate to buy in a seller’s market and relievers are such a difficult position. With that said the Dodgers have a bunch of tier 2 players they could easily trade and not be impacted. We shall see how this plays out. They will be fine in playing with the hand they have. I would say with the emergence of Almonte and Phillips they have some definite talent on hand already. And don’t forget the Farm guys.

    2. You go with a closer because it really isn’t just statistics. You’ve probably heard the term “high leverage situation” with reference to relievers. That’s about the internal psychology of pitching. Pitching to the bottom of the order in the 6th inning is not the same as pitching to the heart of the order in the 9th. That’s the highest leverage situation and few pitchers make the grade. The rest are closers – the guys who can come in in the 9th with the game on the line, one bad pitch away from disaster, 50,000 fans on their feet screaming for him to succeed or against him to fail. He has to throw a 1st pitch strike in a specific zone with something on the pitch, 70+% of the time and also get the first hitter out 80+% of the time. “Closer by committee” is a last ditch strategy for teams that don’t have a closer. It’s rarely successful and never a long term solution.

      1. So how does my previous post apply to Kimbrel and the Dodger’s chances of post-season success with him closing?

        He’s made 37 one inning appearances, all in the 9th and he’s had only 10 1-2-3 innings. In 27 of his 37 appearances he’s immediately got himself in trouble by giving up 55 hits+BB+IBB+HPB’s. And he’s shown no sign of improving. That simply won’t cut it post season.

  4. I have to believe Kimbrel would be no worse than Jansen. Jansen blew two leads in the 17 series and was ineffective enough to be replaced by Julio Urias in the 20 Championship year. And you never know, Kimbel can all of a sudden find it and be the reliever he was before he was traded to the White Sox last year. That guy was nasty. That being said, I think that Treinen will be ok. He has not rushed his return. He should be pretty strong for the playoff push and I definitely trust him to close. Phillips has been impressive and he seems to have a closers mentality,

  5. It won’t surprise me if AF goes out and gets another reliever with at least a little closer experience, for another extra layer of depth, someone like Soto from Detroit, or Barlow from KC.

  6. The Yankees should pivot away from Soto, and make a hard charge on Ohtani, they already have the offense, but they could use some more pitching.

    I wouldn’t mind him here with the Dodgers, but I can’t see Artie trading with the Dodgers, especially after the last debacle.

  7. I am more interested in seeing who the Dodgers could get back in a trade involving Kimbril. Once he is out of the picture the Dodgers can move forward with a new closer. I like Ferguson. I also liked when Urias pitched the final 3 innings in relief for the win. Maybe this year it will be May that closes out a few games with multiple innings pitched.

    Trace hasn’t proven himself yet. He could collapse without much notice but for now I am excited for him. I would like for him to platoon with Cody and see where that goes.

    I hope Taylor doesn’t create a Roberts thing where he forces him into the lineup and causes Lux to sit more than he is now. I am ready to platoon Cody but not Gavin.

    Trade for Drury. Give him Muncy’s at-bats.

    1. Doubt Kimbrel has any value. But I think Treinen, Phillips, Almonte, Ferguson all have closer talent. Graterol should have but they need to get him to hide the ball better he doesn’t miss bats as well as he should for his velocity and movement. I wonder if Kahnle or Gonzalez make it back this season? I read Duffy might make it back. It will be interesting to see who is on the playoff roster.
      I really like Trayce and I am rooting for him. Platooning him with Bellinger and using Talyor to replace Muncy would get the .200 or .155 avg strikeout kings out of some of the games and drastically improve the Dodger offense. IMO

    2. Kimbrel – I agree with Tmax that his trade value is very low right now. Do you have a suggested trade you think might work?

      Trayce-Cody platoon – their stats are very interesting. Trayce has reverse splits and is killing it against right handed pitching. His numbers against lefties and Cody’s numbers against both lefty and righties are all just about the same. So I’m not sure exactly how a platoon setup between the two would work.

      I hope that Doc uses CT3 the way he used to and moves him all around, giving various guys a day off, but I totally agree that Lux (except for a day off once in a while) should be the second baseman every day.

      I’m very ambivalent about Drury. I think that CT3 fills whatever need we have for him so I don’t think I’d offer much for him and think that others might outbid us.

      1. Are they envisioning Drury takes Alberto’s place? I am hoping they keep Thompson on the roster. Lamb’s numbers coming back to his reality.

      2. Alberto is starting to come around hitting-wise and he’s a favorite in the clubhouse. Not sure removing him right now would sit well with the team.

        If you remove him to make a place for Soto, I’m sure everyone would be on board, but to make room for Drury………………………..?

        I guess Fred figures he’d take Muncy’s spot. I keep on expecting Max to wake up from one day to the next but realize I have absolutely no logical reason to expect that. I’m not ready to quit on him yet, but I realize that I have no argument which makes any sense.

      3. Muncy looks bad at the plate. Missing pitches he should hit. Sit him down and get him to rehab or work on his mechanics. Why have a gaping hole in the line up and a poor defender?

      4. I haven’t check defensive stats lately but the eye test tells me Max is just fine in the field. I would say at least average if not better at third base and probably also at second.

        Someone, please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that.

        As to Max’s offense, there are no words to accurately describe it. Horrific comes to mind, so I understand any and all of you who are ready to pull him from the lineup. I’m just not ready yet, but that’s purely on an emotional level with no facts to back it up. And if Doc sat him for a month or AF found a way to put him on the IL or even traded him, I’d live with it.

      5. Last time I looked he has poor range. He fields what he can get to but limited in getting to balls.

      1. The trade deadline is Tuesday at 3:00 PM west coast time, so you haven’t actually given him until the deadline.
        He’s going to have 4 homers between now and then and another 3 or 4 hits besides that.
        One of the homers will be the game winner.
        And you want to bench him?

      2. You should at the bare minimum give us the information on your supplier as u are too far away to pass it…

      3. Sorry, everything’s in short supply, haven’t you heard. I think it’s because of semiconductors.
        Anyway, my supplier says if I give his name he cuts me out.
        But rest assured Tmax, if I gave that name to anyone, it would be you.
        I know Scoop doesn’t need it. He’s still working on stuff he brought back in the 60’s.

      4. Let me rephrase:

        I think it’s time to plan on replacing him. A deadline move could do it.

      5. OK, that’s fair. That gives him 4 games between now and the deadline. The Tuesday game is after the deadline hits.

        4 homers, 7-8 total hits in the next 4 games. If not, you can trade him on Tuesday or check your medical journal for a good IL excuse.

      6. Good for them. It’s time for Seattle fans to enjoy themselves after such a long bad spell.
        Now they should go get Soto or Ohtani and they’ll be set.

  8. This was the perfect time for this article, as I sit here watching Kimbrel load the bases with a three run lead.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Can the team trust him against playoff caliber offenses? He’s got 2 months to get his collective s*** together.

      Yeah, go Mariners. Get Soto too and clobber the asstros.

  9. Jeeminey Christmas what a high wire act that was, if we have games like that in the playoffs, I’m worried we might lose a few posters to heart attacks.

  10. So negative. Kimbrel is a perfect closer with a 3 run lead. He rarely gives up more than 2 runs in the ninth. Well ok maybe he’s a perfect closer with a 4 run lead. Probably a lot of teams need a guy who can hold the other team to only 2/3 runs in the ninth.

    1. Ya gotta give him credit for consistency.
      Before he was a ballplayer he was a tightrope walker in the circus.
      Only fell once in a while.

Leave a Reply