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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.

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