It was one of the biggest deals of the MLB season.
Kimbrel didn’t come at a cheap price, so it was very clear that the White Sox felt strongly about him.
But unfortunately, the 33-year-old has had a rocky stint with his new team so far.
He’s not pitching like his normal self right now.
It’s too soon to panic, but it’s certainly worth evaluating what the problem is.
If the White Sox plan on making a deep playoff run, they’re going to have to get their bullpen situation sorted out before October rolls around.
Let’s take a look at one possible cause for Kimbrel’s recent struggles.
Kimbrel Has Been Forced Into An Eighth-Inning Role, And He Seems To Struggle In That Capacity
When the White Sox traded for Kimbrel, many fans drooled over the idea of a Kimbrel/Liam Hendriks late-innings combo.
Both players were closers during the first half of the season with their respective teams, and both guys were elite in that capacity.
But there’s only room for one full-time closer on a roster.
So when Chicago added Kimbrel, the team had a choice to make.
Ultimately, the White Sox decided to leave keep Hendriks as their closer and give Kimbrel eighth-inning responsibilities.
That decision hasn’t really panned out.
Kimbrel has made 10 appearances with the White Sox, and he has a 5.79 ERA so far.
For reference, he had an insane 0.49 ERA over 39 appearances this season before the White Sox traded for him.
He has allowed a run in three out of his last four outings, and some folks are starting to question whether he is a reliable option right now.
Craig Kimbrel's ERA pitching in the 9th inning this season: 0.00
In the 8th inning: 5.59
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) August 24, 2021
As for Hendriks, he hasn’t been great lately, either.
He has a 7.36 ERA since the team acquired Kimbrel, including a blown save and a loss (which came in different games).
White Sox "closers" Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks have a combined 6.11 ERA since forming the best back end of a bullpen in baseball. #theteamthathastwoclosershasnone
Kimbrel 0.49 5.79
Hendriks 2.58 6.48 https://t.co/R9dxAWJEBI
— Mark Potash (@MarkPotash) August 24, 2021
Maybe it’s time for the White Sox to consider switching the roles of Kimbrel and Hendriks.
With a nine-game lead in the division, this would be the perfect time to experiment with that kind of thing.
In The Playoffs, Kimbrel Should Be The Top Relief Option
Assuming Kimbrel irons out his current struggles, he should be the top relief option for the White Sox in the playoffs.
Hendriks is great, but he has very little postseason experience.
He has just eight playoff appearances under his belt.
And in those appearances, the results were not good.
He has a career 4.97 ERA in the postseason.
Kimbrel, on the other hand, has lots of playoff experience—20 outings, to be exact.
He has a career 3.68 ERA in the postseason, and he even knows what it’s like to pitch in the World Series.
Playoff baseball is a different animal, and experience can’t be taught.
That’s why it’s especially important to get Kimbrel back on track before October arrives.
The bullpen is supposed to be a strong suit for the White Sox.
It would be a shame if it ended up causing the team’s downfall.
Chicago needs to use the remaining weeks of the regular season to work out the kinks, because there’s no time for experimenting in the playoffs.