There were few weaknesses for the Los Angeles Dodgers heading into the postseason. After all, they won 111 games, tied for the fourth most in MLB history. A team does not win that many games by accident.
But there was one possible issue. The ninth inning was hardly a given as Craig Kimbrel had struggled at times throughout the season. That inning promises to be even more of a focal point heading into the NLDS as Kimbrel was left off of the Dodgers’ postseason roster.
Craig Kimbrel had finished 2022 campaign on high note
Kimbrel had actually been pitching relatively well over the final few weeks of the 2022 campaign. He had allowed just six runs, four earned, on five hits and ten walks over his final 18.2 innings, striking out 16 batters. The walk rate may have been higher than anyone would have wanted, but he had held the opposition to a .089/.261/.196 batting line in 70 plate appearances in that timeframe.
However, Kimbrel had also lost his closer role down the stretch as his shaky command made him unreliable. That was a problem all season; while he only issued 28 walks over his 60 innings, he uncorked seven wild pitches and hit five batters. Add in his tendency to implode and the Dodgers just could not trust Kimbrel to record those final three outs.
This now leaves an unsettled back of the bullpen. Twelve different pitchers, including Kimbrel, had notched a save for the Dodgers this season. The problem is that none of those arms truly took over that role over the final few weeks of the season. Daniel Hudson, who finished second on the Dodgers with five saves, tore his ACL in late June and is lost for the postseason. Right now, the leading candidates would be Brusdar Graterol, Chris Martin, and possibly David Price.
The Dodgers could also go with the unconventional route and use a committee for those final outs. Matchups could matter more than usual in those innings, with Dave Roberts mixing and matching as needed. Maybe it will work; however, if the Dodgers come up short due to issues in the ninth inning, it will be easy to second guess this decision, as well as their inability to acquire another closing option at the trade deadline.
Craig Kimbrel has been left off of the Los Angeles Dodgers playoff roster. Their questions in the ninth inning are getting louder.