Midway through last month, Los Angeles Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel was in the middle of one of the worst seasons of his career.
Once the most feared reliever in baseball, Kimbrel's name was only feared at Dodger Stadium, which regularly jeered his name. By Aug. 21, he had seen his ERA climb to 4.46 and hadn't successfully protected a one-run lead until four days earlier. The Dodgers kept him on as their closer, but that spoke more of their injury woes and continued success than any competence on his part.
Kimbrel might have been the team's closer, but he was also his super-team's biggest weakness.
So what happened on Aug. 21, you may ask?
Well, the Dodgers celebrated Women's Day at Dodger Stadium, and one of the ways they observed the occasion was by having their players' significant others pick their walk-up music. Justin Turner entered to "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus. Trea Turner had "Love Story" by Taylor Swift. Freddie Freeman and Will Smith somehow both got "Man, I Feel Like a Woman" by Shania Twain.
And Kimbrel, who usually enters to "Sweet Child O'Mine" by Guns N' Roses, got the mega-hit "Let It Go" from Disney's "Frozen," as selected by his wife Ashley. The selection was a fun little detail, but then a funny thing happened. Kimbrel entered the game that day and, for the first time in two weeks, didn't allow a hit.
Because baseball players are the most superstitious people on planet Earth, Kimbrel stuck with the music for his next appearance. Again, no hits allowed. As of Wednesday, he has posted six straight hitless appearances. His longest such streak beforehand was two games.
You can finally see the full show here, after the Dodgers broadcast opted to show viewers Kimbrel's entrance in its entirety:
Craig Kimbrel - "Let It Go" Entrance pic.twitter.com/x2JDN40BVt
— Mad Choriyama (@MadChoriyama) September 7, 2022
Look, we're not saying "Let It Go" has fixed Kimbrel. There is correlation, and then there is causation. But let's just acknowledge the fun here, as well as the subtle psychological dynamics at play.
Kimbrel was having a miserable season. Then he started entering to a song that no parent would dare boo in front of their young child and now he's looking better. Rather than enter to a hard rock classic, he's using a song so out of place in a baseball stadium that it takes a moment to process. Relief pitching may be the most mentally taxing position in baseball, even moreso if you're a closer, and even a minor change can have a major effect.
Will the success continue? Who knows! Kimbrel has had his struggles in recent years, but the Dodgers' ability to put pitchers back on the right track has reached the point of comedy. Crediting Idina Menzel for a real turnaround would probably be foolish, but it's at least fun. And it definitely wouldn't hurt if she pulled a Timmy Trumpet.