What's wrong with Craig Kimbrel?

The Sox setup man hasn't done a great job since converting from closer.

Craig Kimbrel Chicago White Sox
(USA Today Sports) 

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A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but Craig Kimbrel seems hell-bent on proving the same does not apply to a closer.

A man nicknamed "Dirty Craig" probably doesn't give off a pleasant odor in any context, but the Sox reliever is having a rough time adapting to the eighth inning after arriving from the Cubs.

Kimbrel's latest adventure came in Monday night's 2-1 loss to Toronto and directly led to a third straight loss for the Sox.

Just one strike away from escaping the inning against Teoscar Hernandez, Kimbrel instead threw a wild pitch three feet wide of catcher Seby Zavala. That allowed Jays pinch runner Breyvic Valera to score from third with what would end up the game-winning run.

In the "thank god for small favors" department, Kimbrel was unhurt after trying to block the plate. The soccer slide was positively Eloy-esque in both admirable effort and complete lack of risk assessment.

But, yeah, this is the point where the Sox may want to unplug Kimbrel for 10-15 seconds before plugging back in and rebooting.

Because this isn't the pitcher the Sox thought they were getting.

To wit:

  • Through 10 appearances with the Sox, Kimbrel has allowed six earned runs over 9 1/3 innings for a 5.79 ERA. Only one of the appearances came in the ninth inning.
  • Compare that to just two earned runs over 39 appearances with the Cubs this season, neither of which came after May 15.

Tony La Russa lifted Kimbrel early in Friday's eighth inning against the Rays, a move that visibly angered the pitcher and required a clearing of the air meeting later in the weekend.

And it might be here that La Russa needs to again employ his Hall of Fame pedigree to get Kimbrel — a potential Hall of Famer in his own right — back on track before October.

The need is urgent: Trading Nick Madrigal for Kimbrel was an all-in move for the Sox and receiving defective goods means the reliever could derail a second Chicago team with postseason hopes.

(The 2019 Cubs nod knowingly.)

Kimbrel and fellow A-list closer Liam Hendriks have made plenty of public statements about their egos being checked at the door and the World Series ring being the only thing that matters.

So it's probably time for La Russa to test Hendriks' side of that pledge.

Kimbrel has a 0.00 ERA in the ninth inning this season.

Four of Hendriks' six blown saves, meanwhile, have come since July 11. Maybe he could use a change of scenery, too?

The Sox still have a nine-game lead over Cleveland and 36 games left. So if ever there were a time for TLR to rearrange furniture and assess the look, this is it.

It shouldn't matter when the game's best relievers enter the game, but Kimbrel is showing that maybe it does.

And there's really only one way to find out.

Next: Dylan Cease (9-6, 4.06) vs. Jose Berrios (8-6, 3.52)


How many saves did Bobby Jenks have in the 2005 postseason?

News and results

Former Hawks forward Jimmy Hayes dies at 31

Awful news on Monday: Hayes, the father of two young children, was found dead at his home in Massachussetts. No cause of death was reported. Hayes made his NHL debut with the Hawks in 2011 and while his time with the team was short (43 games and six goals over parts of three seasons), he left a big impression with both teammates and fans. RIP.

Rafael Ortega ends the Wrigley losing streak

The longest losing streak in Wrigley Field history is now book-ended by walkoff wins. Ortega's two-run homer with one out in the ninth spurred the first playing of "Go Cubs Go" since Javy Baez's walkoff on July 26. It also gave us this much-needed highlight of Spanish broadcaster Miguel Esparza calling the shot. The Cubs are now 5-18 since the trade deadline.

  • Next: Justin Steele (2-2, 3.22) vs. German Marquez (11-9, 3.80)
  1. The Raiders reportedly tried to get Khalil Mack back from the Bears during the offseason. The Athletic
  2. Kris Bryant is out here telling people in San Francisco that the Giants remind him of the 2016 Cubs. NBC Sports Bay Area
  3. Predicting the record of every Big Ten team this season. 24/7 Sports
  4. The arrival of Michael Jordan and his yacht is currently big news in Croatia. Total Croatia News
  5. Chicago's oldest hot dog stand is run by four generations of Black women, just blocks away from where we did last week's service project. Tribune

Trivia answer: Four — Two in the ALDS and two in the World Series. Jenks also had a blown save in Game 2 of the World Series.

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