Throughout the postseason, the Red Sox closer has been anything but dominant.
There has been nothing pretty about Craig Kimbrel in the postseason this year.
The usually dominant closer has struggled to get ahead in the count, leading to an increased walk rate and plenty of solid contact. He’s throwing a mere 55% strikes which has resulted in 46% of hitters reaching base against him in the postseason.
It’s incredible that such a rollercoaster performance has allowed him to convert each save opportunity and the Red Sox have not lost a game that he’s appeared in. The reality is that his results-based performance is unsustainable. He has a 2.33 WHIP in the ALCS. He’s continuing to fall behind in counts and merely getting bailed out by spectacular plays (see Andrew Benintendi and Eduardo Nunez) and his high velocity that discourages hitters from squaring the baseball up.
Kimbrel is an odd case because he’s traditionally struggled with extended rest, rendering an extended break as ineffective. However, there’s clearly a mechanical flaw of some sort. He’s missing glove-side with his fastball and has uncharacteristically hit two batters due to the “pulling” action of his pitches.
At this point, it may be wise for Alex Cora to explore using a different arm in the biggest innings, but it doesn’t seem likely. The young manager further doubled-down on his faith in the Red Sox closer in a post-game interview with the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman:
“He’s our guy, and it was Kemp and the top of the lineup,” said Cora. “We’ve been talking about it the whole season. I know people were really anxious, 162 games and the first series abut we knew all along that something like this was going to come up and we trust our guy. He threw well. I know it didn’t look pretty but we got 27 outs and now we move on.” – Boston Herald
Truthfully, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, or Ryan Brasier have had moments of shakiness and it may take quite a bit of confidence to insert them in the ninth innings of the ALCS. The Red Sox seem primed to let it ride with Craig Kimbrel; however he’s quickly turning into Cardiac Craig.
It will be a miracle if the Red Sox closer doesn’t cause a fan to have a heart condition throughout the postseason.