It was easy to ignore Craig Kimbrel’s dismal season for a few reasons. For one thing, the Red Sox won 108 games and are now a win away from going to the World Series. And when the team collectively is successful, there’s less individual player scrutiny. For another, when said player becomes the fastest ever to reach 300 career saves and has a 40+ save season amidst said wins, you can ignore the repeated heart attacks that his appearances induce.
In the postseason, Kimbrel has allowed at least one run in every one of his five appearances dating back to Game 4 of the 2017 ALDS. He has a 7.36 ERA between the 2017 ALDS and the two postseason series so far this year. He’s allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and walked three batters over two ALCS game appearances this week, only striking out three men in three innings of work in this series. His pitches are so off-location he might as well be trying to throw the ball to another continent.
Last night, Kimbrel got the first 6-out save of his career. But did he really? In the 8th, Tony Kemp made the incredibly foolish decision to run on Mookie Betts, resulting in an out. And in the 9th, Andrew Benintendi saved Kimbrel’s ass with a game-ending diving catch that makes the word ‘miracle’ seem insufficient. Before that, Kimbrel had given up a run, hit a batter, walked a man, and loaded the bases for Alex Bregman. Now-typical Kimbrel absurdness, and altogether unacceptable.
This has, without a doubt, been the worst season of Kimbrel’s career. Even before we reached the postseason, it was clear that Kimbrel was not the closer we’ve come to expect. His 2018 regular season ERA and earned runs are nearly double last year’s numbers, and he has more than twice as many walks as he did in 2017. His strikeout numbers have plummeted. And this is a topic for another day when I am not sleep-deprived and traumatized by the postseason, but the fact that pitchers are the only players who get wins, losses, and saves, is ludicrous. Because I’m sure that many of Kimbrel’s 42 regular season saves this year were more due to our insanely productive offense. He certainly isn’t the reason we won last night’s game; he’s the reason we almost lost.
“He’s our guy… we trust our guy… I know it didn’t look pretty but we got 27 outs and now we move on.” – Alex Cora
It seems almost ridiculous to have to say this, but if you cannot quickly and effectively close a game, you are not a closer. You are the man giving every member of Red Sox Nation heart attacks, elevated blood pressure, and insomnia. I’m glad Cora has faith in him, and I have faith in Cora, but ‘risky’ seems like an understatement; escaping a bad situation you create doesn’t make you deserving of the save. I wonder how much more anyone can take, and how far Alex Cora’s trust extends.
We’ve seen other pitchers close out postseason games this year, with greater ease and infinitely less anxiety. I wouldn’t mind not seeing Kimbrel again.
Quote: Boston Herald