Five years ago, a lot of us fans thought the closer role would have been obsolete by now. Sure, a lot of teams are starting to use their best relievers in different game spots, but we’re still seeing guys hold down the traditional closer roles where they throw only in the ninth inning with the game on the line, unless they haven’t seen action in several days.
Right now, the Dodgers appear to be a hybrid of both philosophies. Without a doubt, righty Evan Phillips is by far the best reliever on the club right now, and we’ve seen him in both seventh and eighth inning action lately, depending on when the most threatening part of the opposing team’s club comes to the plate.
At the same time, we haven’t seen Craig Kimbrel throw outside of the ninth inning. The veteran righty continues to have his scary moments, but the offense has given him leads to where a few mistakes can go mostly unnoticed — or excused, to use a better word.
The fact that skipper Dave Roberts is picking different spots for Phillips might suggest that there could be some flexibility when the postseason rolls around. In years past, when Kenley Jansen was the exclusive closer, there were times when the bullpen was dead quiet in the ninth inning. However, with Kimbrel’s current unpredictability, Roberts ensures having someone else warm, at least when the game is close.
We’ve seen Roberts deviate from the traditional closer’s role on occasion over the last few years, specifically when lefty Julio Urias played a huge relief role in the team’s 2020 World Championship run.
Philips has been flat out untouchable over the last few months, and he’s doing it with mainly off-speed stuff. According to Baseball Savant, Phillips is using his slider a whopping 46% of the time, which is no question his primary weapon against righty hitters. What’s even more impressive is that his cutter against lefty hitters has resulted in a ridiculous .152 batting average against.
It should be interesting to see how Blake Treinen comes back from a shoulder injury that has had him on the shelf for pretty much the entire season. The big righty faced Hanser Alberto and Joey Gallo in some sim action on Tuesday and figures to see some rehab appearances before being activated at the beginning of September.
If Treinen comes back successfully, he likely won’t be used on consecutive nights, at least until the games start to become extra meaningful. If Phillips maintains his current form and Treinen returns to even a glimpse of his old self, Kimbrel almost becomes obsolete.
Regardless, if Roberts decides to stick to an exclusive closer for the postseason, that guy could very well be wearing No. 59.