Craig Kimbrel has had a bad year. His 4.02 ERA is the second-worst in the Dodgers bullpen, ahead of only Phil "Someone Has To Pitch When We're Up By 10" Bickford, and his 1.357 WHIP is the worst in their pen.
He has allowed way too many hits this year — hit hits-per-nine-innings and opponents batting average are both the second-worst of his career, ahead of only his disastrous 2019 season with the Cubs — and his walk rate is well above his career average, too. To complicate it all, his strikeout rate is by far the lowest of his career, which has exacerbated the career-high batting average on balls in play.
All of which leads to our point, which is that Kimbrel's spot in October is very much in doubt. Not his job as closer, but his actual spot on the postseason roster.
After the latest chapter in the Kimbrel saga, a chapter that saw him get a huge strikeout of Manny Machado only to blow it by walking the next two hitters, Kimbrel talked with the media about his struggles and his role in October.
Kimbrel is realistic, which is at least a little refreshing. He has more career saves than any other active pitcher, but he understands that when your team has its eyes on winning the World Series, you have to perform in order to earn a spot on the roster.
Of course, we'd rather have an aloof, entitled closer who just gets the job done than a stand-up guy who faces the music every time he fails, but these are the cards we've been dealt.
Kimbrel's stuff is still very good, and he's shown signs of brilliance this year, and even in the last month. He probably has about three or four more appearances in the regular season, and it's not inconceivable that he could earn a spot on the postseason roster in those spots. It's doubtful that he could earn the closer role that quickly, but a few good performances in the postseason could build that trust back up.
But the first step is for Kimbrel to "prove that," like he said. If his last three or four games aren't lights out, he's probably watching the NLDS from somewhere outside the active roster.