Before there’s more unfortunate discourse on Craig Kimbrel, let’s set the record straight on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 4-3 loss to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night. Kimbrel technically put the final nail in the coffin, but there’s much more blame to go around.
For starters, LA went 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position. Mookie Betts, Max Muncy, Will Smith and Justin Turner went a combined 0-for-9. They left 14 guys on base. Turner had two defensive mishaps — he stumbled in the first inning and failed to turn a double play, which extended the inning and gave the Padres their first two runs, then made an error in the bottom of the eighth that gave the Padres the lead.
The Dodgers then scored in the top of the ninth to tie it. Had Turner not made the error, it’s 3-2 and the bullpen likely shuts the door in the bottom of the ninth. Also, if Will Smith is going to DH, he can’t go 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and the most failures with RISP.
Could you also blame Dave Roberts here? Why did he yank Tyler Anderson after six innings and just 71 pitches? Why put more strain on the bullpen than is needed? He could’ve at least gone one more inning.
Anyway … when the game reached extras after all of this, Kimbrel was called upon in the bottom of the 10th. Let’s just say the “Let It Go” phase is over.
Can the Dodgers actually afford to release Craig Kimbrel right now?
After a sacrifice bunt to move the ghost runner to third, the Padres got another runner on base when Juan Soto was intentionally walked (Why? He’s been terrible!). Kimbrel then struck out Manny Machado. OK, two outs!
But then he walked Brandon Drury to load the bases and Jorge Alfaro (who hadn’t drawn a walk in two months) to lose the game. He threw 19 pitches and 10 of them were balls. He recorded his seventh loss of the season, which feels impossible.
With all that said, despite fans wishing for his release or exclusion from the postseason roster, how can the Dodgers possibly do that?
Well, they actually can. Just move on and figure it out. It’s what Yankees fans were begging the team to do with Aroldis Chapman, and their wish may come true in the next week or so. But, unlike the Yankees, the Dodgers have far too many bullpen question marks as it pertains to performance and injury to part with almost anybody.
Plus, you mean to tell anyone that Kimbrel has no use? There’s obviously a strong argument for him to never see the ninth inning or extras again, but how is there no use for him earlier in the game?
The Dodgers have barely enough starters to field a postseason rotation. If they had extra arms there, they might be able to cope with fully cutting bait with Kimbrel. Then you look at the actual bullpen and you have guys like Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol, David Price, Tommy Kahnle, Victor González (shut-down rehab assignment), Yency Almonte and Dustin May who have either barely pitched this month or have had extremely limited action all year. How much can any of them can be trusted, especially in the later innings?
This is, by no means, a defense of Kimbrel. He’s largely been unplayable for the Dodgers in save/late-game situations this season when that’s supposed to be his calling card.
But releasing him? Leaving him off the postseason roster? Instead of trying him out in the sixth or seventh over the next week or so to find a new role for him on a barren pitching staff? There’s much worse out there than Kimbrel, don’t forget that.
Perhaps if Roberts considered this sooner, fans wouldn’t have (understandably) reached a point where they don’t even want to see Kimbrel anymore. But right now, the Dodgers would be hard pressed to make such a decision with the current state of their pitching staff.