What’s Up With Craig Kimbrel? One Stat Highlights Red Sox Closer’s Struggles

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Here’s a misleading fact: Craig Kimbrel is 3-for-3 on save attempts this postseason.

Yes, the Boston Red Sox closer has technically done his job so far. But he’s also raised the blood pressure of every Sox fan in the process.

“Cardiac Craig” was at it again Sunday night in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park, allowing one run on two hits and bringing the game-tying run to the plate before finally recording the save on a deep fly out by Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman that missed the Green Monster by about a foot.

After Sunday’s outing, Kimbrel now has allowed at least a run in four consecutive postseason appearances dating to 2017. Think that’s cause for concern? How about this stat dug up by The Athletic’s Jayson Stark:

Yes, there are a lot of qualifiers in that stat, and Kimbrel did pitch a clean inning with the Red Sox losing in Game 2 of the 2017 AL Division Series.

But statistically speaking, if your team is winning a playoff game and Kimbrel comes in to pitch, buckle up.

“I’m tired of giving up runs,” Kimbrel admitted after Sunday’s series-tying, 7-5 win, via WEEI.com. “But it’s good to get the win. Go back out there hopefully in Game 3.”

Kimbrel’s most notable issue has been his erratic command. In his adventurous outing against the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the ALDS that ultimately clinched the series, the 30-year-old threw just 13 of his 28 pitches for strikes while walking two batters.

Kimbrel reined in that command Sunday but still wasn’t fooling any Astros hitters. George Springer’s double off the Sox closer had an exit velocity of 106.3 mph, according to Yahoo Sports, while two of the other three balls in play that inning had an exit velocity above 92 mph.

The veteran’s struggles aren’t exactly a blip on the radar, either: Kimbrel posted an unsightly 4.57 ERA in the second half of the 2018 regular season and saw his WHIP jump from 0.885 in the first half to 1.200 in the second.

The seven-time All-Star certainly has the talent to turn things around, and fortunately for Boston, he’s been able to grind through to (barely) keep his team ahead. But the Red Sox and their fans certainly would like him to dial back the drama.

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