What is wrong with Craig Kimbrel?

Craig Kimbrel is replaced in the game by Matt Barnes.  This is
after his 4th walk to force in a run.
Photo Credit Bob DeChiara USA Today Sports
When the Red Sox and “Dealin” Dave Dombrowski traded 4 of the farm systems top prospects back in November for All Star closer Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox fans rejoiced. We could taste another World Series without even having played a game yet. As the season goes on, all of Red Sox nation is still yearning for the World Series, but mostly just hoping to make the playoffs. Craig Kimbrel is not helping matters.

Right before the All Star break, Kimbrel was out in the outfield shagging balls during batting practice when he felt a twinge in his knee, which turned out to be a torn meniscus. The diagnosis was surgery and a 3-6 week recovery time. He returned right at the 3-week timeline. He said he was ready and that he had no issue with his balky knee.

The first game he pitched against the Mariners with no issue. While he walked a hitter and gave up a hit in the 9th, he still managed to blow away three hitters and earn the save. Two nights later, pitching in the 10th inning, we all saw a glimpse of what the Red Sox traded for. Kimbrel struck out all three hitters, and it was by far the best he had looked all year. It was vintage Kimbrel.

Then, Tuesday night rolled around. The Red Sox had gotten the game to the 9th inning with a 5-2 lead after another Rick “Cy” Porcello gem. Kimbrel retired the first hitter, Didi Gregorious, on strikes, walked Chase Headley, and got rookie Gary Sanchez to pop out. Then the drama started. He went on to walk 3 guys in a row, and walk in a run. He was then pulled for Matt Barnes, who then retired Mark Teixeira to earn the save and preserve the victory. When asked about his outing, John Tomase from WEEI.com quoted Kimbrel as saying, “ I walked 4 guys. I mean I was out there watching the same game you all were. I didn’t have my best stuff tonight. In that situation, I tried to make pitches to get strikeouts.” I understand trying to get strikeouts, but with 2 outs and 98-100 MPH velocity, putting the ball in play has not been a bad thing for him this year. I don’t think that guys like Brett Garner and Jacoby Ellsbury were going to take him deep. Isn’t the job of the closer to get outs any way possible? I love Kimbrel and think he will be great for Boston for years to come, but openly admitting you are trying to strike guys out when you are paid to just get outs is not the way to my heart.

Just so we all don’t go into panic mode, myself included, Kimbrel has never walked 4 guys in a single inning in his career. I take stock in this, as he has been in the league long enough for those stats to matter. He has been the most dominant closer in baseball, not named Aroldis Chapman, since the day he took the mound for the Braves. One of the things every good team has is a shut down guy in the back of their bullpen. If this team makes the playoffs and Kimbrel can get past the knee pain and pitch like he was before the All Star break, magical things could happen. Let’s hope Kimbrel’s next outing is the start of something great.