Photo Credit: USATSI / CBS Sports
Is it time for the Red Sox to move Craig Kimbrel down the bullpen ladder? Just what potential options do exist that keep Kimbrel within the bullpen?
In 2017 the Astros lost confidence in closer Ken Giles who eventually finished the Astros jaunt to a World Series title with a 0-2 record and depressing 11.34 ERA. Giles had been the go-to guy for the Astros posting a 34/38 record in closing out games. Now Red Sox manager Alex Cora is having a repeat nightmare that he witnessed last season only with Craig Kimbrel.
Baseball is certainly a game that can dent egos and one just examines the continuing failures of David Price and now Kimbrel’s more than shaky postseason adventures. On Wednesday a bonehead base running play and an incredible catch saved Kimbrel from the installation of goat horns. But what to do?
The Red Sox oft-criticized bullpen has two very bright spots so far in the postseason. The most notable is Ryan Brasier who has been unscathed in six games and 6.2 innings. Brasier appears to not have wobbly legs and exudes confidence on the mound. Brasier also had just a 1.9 BB/9 and 0.5 HR/9 during the season.
The second bright spot is Matt Barnes who during the season kept the ball in the yard with just a 0.7 BB/9. With both the homer-happy Yankees and Astros the HR/9 by both is difficult to ignore. This postseason Barnes has been in six games and allowed no hits in 5.2 innings. The downside is Barnes propensity for walks – four in the playoffs and a 4.5 BB/9 during the season.
Cora has had splendid success manipulating his bullpen considering the failings of some key rotation ingredients. The Red Sox bullpen weakness was a season-long concern, but so far it has been minimized. The obvious solution is not the bullpen, but the starters.
A solid outing such as that of Nathan Eovaldi offers a potential tweak to the bullpen arrangement, but that comes with a stipulation – just how far do you go with Kimbrel? I could see Cora using the learning experience of Giles as a template for this season. Simply move Kimbrel down the ladder and use him in the early innings.
That, of course, comes with its own risk. If Kimbrel is really on a path of self-destruction it will just come earlier rather than later, but if Cora witnesses that the hook can be applied quickly without the prolonged torture Red Sox Nation suffered as Kimbrel self-immolated on the mound in two series.
As it now stands Kimbrel is the closer and the Red Sox have are headed to the World Series. The manager has shown immense trust in his closer. The Dodgers await on Tuesday.