Craig Kimbrel is the safety net of the Boston Red Sox’s ugly bullpen. However, is that net starting to rip? After blowing his fourth save of the season in Toronto, many Red Sox fans are starting to worry. With a 2.63 ERA on the season, many other Red Sox fans see no reason to panic. Let us dive into more of the numbers.
Craig Kimbrel: Reason for Worry?
Kimbrel’s numbers of late are certainly cause for concern. Over the past couple weeks, the flamethrower houses an 8.44 ERA. Opposing hitters are notching a .300 batting average in that time. One of the causes of the increase in hits against him may have something to do with Craig Kimbrel’s decline in strikeouts. A 13.2 K/9 is most certainly a phenomenal stat. We all know that Craig Kimbrel is an elite closer. The reason why fans are talking about the decline in strikeouts is because of his 16.4 K/9 rate Craig Kimbrel put up last season. Craig Kimbrel’s dominating season last year will make anything else look bad.
Year One in Boston
Kimbrel’s first season in Boston was one many chose to forget. While he was not “bad” he was certainly not the “finisher” that we have come to know. During the 2016 season Kimbrel put up the highest ERA of his career. His 3.40 ERA did not blow the fans in Boston away, and many were left disappointed after hearing all the hype about Craig Kimbrel. His 53-total innings pitched were also down from his career averages. One of the biggest issues of Craig Kimbrel’s 2016 season was pitching in the 8th inning.
Former Red Sox manager John Farrell seemed almost insistent on using Kimbrel in the eighth inning despite Kimbrel voicing his concerns with it, and the number of runs that went on to score in eighth inning. The fact that Craig Kimbrel expresses his intent to pitch in eighth inning for Manager Alex Cora speaks volumes that the new manager brings to this Red Sox team.
While Craig Kimbrel continues to dazzle this season, his recent numbers are absolutely cause for concern. Just the number of pitches Kimbrel is throwing per inning is concerning. It seems like every save situation the flamethrower is walking the tightrope. In the last couple days, Craig Kimbrel notched his 100th save with the Red Sox, tied for fourth all-time with the team. He also saw his ERA climb, again, from 2.49 to 2.63. This is not a huge climb, but it is definitely something to keep track off.
As a Red Sox fan, I have the most confidence I have had in a closer, in Kimbrel, since prime Jonathan Paplebon. It is unclear if Dave Dombrowski will be able to extend Craig Kimbrel this offseason, but if he continues this pace, he could go down as one of the most dominate closers since Mariano Riveria.
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