Save vs. Non-Save, Craig Kimbrel edition

Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox

BOSTON, MA – MAY 15: Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Houston Astros in the ninth inning on May 15, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Craig Kimbrel

I wish there was a ready explanation. Really, I do. More importantly, so do Dave Dombrowski and John Farrell.

Craig Kimbrel has been spectacular in save situations, with a 1.45 ERA, 17 saves, a 0.643 WHIP, and an average of 13 K’s per 9 innings. That’s why he’s going to the All-Star Game in San Diego next Tuesday.

In non-saves situations, however, it has been a strikingly different story: Kimbrel, who gave up four runs in the ninth inning Tuesday and failed to record an out in a 7-2 loss, has made 14 appearances in non-save situations, and has a 6.75 ERA. In 13 1/3 innings, he has allowed 12 hits and 10 walks, leading to 10 runs.

“I can’t say it’s a lack of adrenaline. Even in tonight’s situation, we’re in a one-run ballgame,” Farrell told reporters Tuesday night. “You can say the same is still on the line. The numbers bear it out, it’s been a difficult spot for him.”

It hasn’t always been this way for Kimbrel. Look at these numbers since he first became a closer in 2011:

Save situation   Non-save

2011                                                     2.22                 1.85

2012                                                     1.01                 1.00

2013                                                      1.35                 0.66

2014                                                      0.89                 4.76

2015                                                      2.06                   4.02

2016                                                       1.45                    6.75


We wanted to see if other closers are afflicted in a similar fashion, so we looked at all the closers who have exceeded Kimbrel’s career saves total of 242 since 2001.

Here are the numbers:

Mariano Rivera                                    1.95                        2.29

Francisco Rodriguez                           2.71                         2.70

Joe Nathan                                             2.40                       2.68

Trevor Hoffman                                    2.71                         3.15

Jonathan Papelbon                            2.37                         2.39

Francisco Cordero                                3.61                         3.10

Huston Street                                        2.97                          2.79

Jason Isringhausen                               3.49                         2.76

Jose Valverde                                          2.52                          4.22

Fernando Rodney                                  3.45                            3.76

Craig Kimbrel                                         1.49                            2.51

Clearly, it’s not a universal affliction. And chances are it’s correctible. Kimbrel certainly believes it is. There’s lots of season left to do so.


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