A big focus for the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason has been bolstering their bullpen. Among the club’s most notable moves to this point was acuqiring Corey Knebel from the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade for pitching prospect Leo Crawford in early December.
Knebel, coming off a down 2020 season, was poised to be non-tendered by the Brewers and become a free agent. The Dodgers, however, saw an opportunity to buy low on the former All-Star closer.
Knebel struggled in his first action since undergoing Tommy John surgery, posting a 6.08 ERA across 15 appearances. However, he looked considerably better down the stretch, allowing just two runs and holding opponents to a .167/.286/.250 batting line in his final six appearances.
It wasn’t that long ago in which Knebel was one of the best relievers in all of baseball. From 2017-18, he ranked eighth among relief pitchers in FanGraphs’ WAR (3.7), posting a 2.54 ERA with 55 saves and 14.7 strikeouts per nine innings over 133 games.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recalled some of the club’s hitters feeling frustrated every time they stepped in the box against Knebel during the 2018 National League Championship Series, per Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times:
“I just remember the comments hitters were making when he came into the game or when they were dropping their bat back in the rack, how nasty he was,” said Roberts, the Dodgers manager. “I don’t remember the specifics — just the mumbling, the frustration, the ‘Here we go again.’ He was tough.”
Knebel pitched in all seven games against the Dodgers during the NLCS that year, going 1-0 with one save, a 1.29 ERA and 10 strikeouts over seven innings. L.A. batters hit a combined .095/.208/.190 off the right-hander during the series.
The Dodgers have found success with reclamation projects in recent years and hope Knebel becomes the latest success story. Over that time, the club has helped the likes of Joe Blanton, Brandon Morrow and Blake Treinen return to their previous form.
Morrow was one of the many relievers brought in by the Dodgers this offseason, while Treinen recently re-signed with the club for two years. L.A. is still looking to add to the group and most recently has been linked to former Cleveland Indians closer Brad Hand.
Knebel ‘excited’ to not pitch against Dodgers lineup
While certain Dodgers hitters lamented facing Knebel, he felt the same way when having to pitch against them and is relieved to no longer have to do so.
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