Craig Kimbrel’s ninth inning towards the Reds on Monday transpired as follows: Stroll, wild pitch, floor out, stroll, stroll, hit by pitch, stroll.
Kimbrel exited with the bases loaded and one out, the Cubs clinging to an 8-7 lead. Although right-hander Jeremy Jeffress bailed him out by retiring the subsequent two batters to finish the contest, a lot of the postgame focus centered on his incapacity to find pitches.
Kimbrel was purported to be a dependable nearer for Chicago this yr regardless of his rocky second half in 2019. Now it appears he is perhaps cooked for good, unable to get anyplace near his former dominance. After watching the beforehand wonderful aid duo of Carl Edwards Jr. and Pedro Strop implode final season, the Cubs are staring down one other doubtlessly brutal yr from their bullpen.
There may very well be severe repercussions for Chicago if the membership cannot clear up the drawback quickly — the NL Central is about as much as be a four-team race during which obvious weaknesses will probably be punished. The influence of Kimbrel’s potential bottoming out is perhaps magnified by an elevated league-wide reliance on relievers throughout a 60-game season.
At the very least on paper, the Cubs haven’t got many apparent top-end alternate options to Kimbrel. Jeffress endured the worst yr of his profession in 2019, and it stays unclear what the crew will get from him. Rowan Wick is fascinating — the fastball/curveball pitcher has a profession 3.19 ERA — and unproven arms equivalent to Dillon Maples and Adbert Alzolay are maybe on the verge of a breakthrough regardless of their lack of MLB success with extraordinarily restricted alternatives.
Kimbrel may clearly return to respectability, a shift supervisor David Ross continues to insist is coming. Ross has mentioned the restart amid the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown off the rhythm of some pitchers.
“I’m not trying to make excuses for anybody,” Ross instructed reporters Tuesday. “But, we’ve got to give a little bit of leash (to Kimbrel). This is a really unique situation that we’re dealing with.”
It appears more and more unlikely, although, for Kimbrel to circle all the means again to his former self. In any case, that peak type represented one in every of the greatest closers in MLB historical past.
So, the Cubs will for the time being proceed handy Kimbrel the ball in the ninth inning regardless of this shortened season making every recreation depend far more than in a standard yr. At this level, their selections are restricted, with Jeffress for now being subsequent in line to take over the nearer’s function ought to Kimbrel preserve faltering.
Only a few video games into 2020, it is too early to make a definitive name on how Chicago will fare late in video games. However the trauma of 2019 definitely casts doubt on what this yr will convey.