Blog: Should Braves have used Kimbrel?

In the playoffs, sometimes you have to do things you don't normally do in order to survive. Sometimes you have to do things other managers wouldn't think of doing. Sometimes you have to call on players to perform tasks they aren't used to performing.

 

Craig Kimbrel standing with his arms crossed as the Dodgers closed out the game in the ninth inning is the signature moment that will forever be ingrained in my mind when I think of the 2013 National League Division Series.

 

The Braves held a 3-2 lead entering the eighth inning with Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe due up. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez elected to go with David Carpenter to face them, and Gonzalez said the plan was to hand Kimbrel the ball with two outs in the inning. Kimbrel never received the ball, and Carpenter allowed both Puig and Uribe to score on a two-run homer by the latter.

 

If Carpenter gets those two outs, the Braves likely win the game, I'm not writing this post and nothing is said of the move. Also, Carpenter should be counted on to get two outs. He had a 1.78 ERA and 29 percent strikeout rate this season. But that doesn't make it any more justifiable.

 

Kimbrel is arguably the best reliever in baseball. He had a 1.21 ERA this year, and a 1.01 ERA last year. He has struck out 43 percent of the batters he has faced in his major league career. To have anyone but your best reliever - especially the best in the game - in the highest-leverage situation of a game that ends your season if you lose is worth a lot of questioning.

 

Two outs isn't worth keeping your best reliever from appearing in the highest-leverage play of your season.

 

And if the Braves are dead set on limiting Kimbrel to four outs, bring him in at the beginning of the eighth to face Puig and Uribe, and bring in Carpenter to face what's left after Kimbrel's four outs. What's more important: a win for the Braves or a save for Kimbrel?

 

Those final three outs of a baseball game that result in a save are the most overblown outs in the game when the higher-leverage at-bat comes an inning earlier. When the game is on the line in the eighth, holding the lead by using your best reliever is more important than saving your best reliever for the final three outs against the bottom of the lineup with no one on base.

 

But all of this is likely avoided if Kimbrel is brought in for the final six outs. The way Kimbrel's season went, I have complete confidence in his ability to hold a one-run lead for two innings.

 

Two outs are not worth enough to put your season in jeopardy.

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David Parker
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David Parker 10/08/13 - 11:09 am
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agreed, but I equally agree

agreed, but I equally agree that Freddie probably thought beyond the 8th and 9th inning. Would you still feel the same had the Dodgers tied it and then Kimbrel is shut down the rest of the game?

David Lee
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David Lee 10/08/13 - 01:57 pm
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Yes, I would have felt the

Yes, I would have felt the same. You play for the current inning, not future innings. Future innings mean nothing if you give up the game in the current inning. Fredi played for the future inning by keeping Kimbrel in the bullpen.

soapy_725
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soapy_725 10/08/13 - 02:28 pm
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The Braves have a history of
Unpublished

The Braves have a history of losing the BIG Games. It takes a winner to know how to win the big game. Bobby Cox had the same failing history. You have to know what it feels like in that special moment on the crest of the wave. Some do. Joe Torre knew.

David Parker
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David Parker 10/08/13 - 02:53 pm
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That's the rub ain't it ? If

That's the rub ain't it ? If you never play for the future innings, why wouldn't you put Kimbrel in for the first inning? By your logic, he would get more opportunity to get outs in the "now" instead of later in the game.

I still stand by the non-call that he should have brought out Craig at the beginning of the 8th. Just kickin the dirt with ya.

b1
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b1 10/08/13 - 03:04 pm
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David, I agree! Use

David, I agree! Use everything you have especially when it is a win or go home game. I thought Fredi made some questionable decisions in this entire series. I am a Fredi fan but didn't understand the series with the Dodgers. Fun season...Wish it was still on.

David Lee
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David Lee 10/08/13 - 03:40 pm
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It's about leverage. The

It's about leverage. The highest-leverage situation in the game presented itself in the eighth inning with Puig at second base. If you don't bring Kimbrel in for that situation, you're not using your best reliever in the most important situation. Or just potentially avoid the situation altogether by having Kimbrel begin the eighth. There's also the whole thing about having Kimbrel out there against what's left of the middle of the Dodgers lineup instead of having him face the bottom of the order in the ninth.

The highest-leverage play rarely occurs before the sixth or seventh inning, because it's late in the game and the losing team has fewer outs to work with. The rare case of the highest-leverage play occurring early in the game is when it's a 1-0, 2-1 game, the go-ahead run scores in the first few innings, and the losing team fails to threaten late.

myfather15
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myfather15 10/08/13 - 04:51 pm
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David Lee; I agree with you,

David Lee; I agree with you, but you can always second guess decisions, when you already know the outcome. If he would have put Kimbrel in there to begin the 8th, then used Carpenter in the ninth and Carpenter would have lost the game to those lesser hitters, people would be wanting to crucify Freddie for an idiotic decision. Carpenter is good and his fast ball is only 3 or 4 miles an hour less than Kimbrels; of course his breaking pitches aren't near as devestating.

myfather15
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myfather15 10/08/13 - 05:04 pm
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In my opinion; the Braves

In my opinion; the Braves lost this series because of poor hitting, period. Chipper Jones and Dale Murphy during a game in the earlier part of the season, both said they were concerned about this team. They both stated that a team built on HR's and high strikeouts, is built for the regular season, against mediocre pitching; but will NOT be successful in the post season against a team with great pitchers, especially in a 5 game series where you face their best, twice. I think Clayton Kershaw, Zach Grienke and Ryu are pretty darn good. Kershaw being probably the best pitcher in baseball.

You are NOT going to hit a lot of HR's off a Kershaw or Greinke, ever!! We built this team on the long ball and we died by it because the long ball left us, against quality pitching. If they keep people like Uggla and B.J. Upton on this team, we will be in the same position next year; with a decent regular season and quick exit in the postseason; if we make the postseason. We can't depend upon Washington being awful for long, they have really good pitching.

I think Chipper Jones and Dale Murphy would know a little something about baseball and they called this exact scenario, early in the season. Our very powerful bats, with a tendency to strike out a LOT, let us down, just as they said they would. We need to get hitters who can put the ball in play consistently and get base hits. Every hit doesn't have to be a homerun!! But I truly believe we are STUCK with Uggla and B.J. Upton. Uggla I believe is owed somewhere around 13 million and B.J. around 17.5 million.

ANY team would be stupid to take on those salaries, against their preformance. We would have to eat the majority of their salaries, just as the Cubs did with Soriano. We might get prospects for them, but we are stuck with their salaries, which will greatly limit our free agent acquisitions this off season; including not resigning McCann.

Frank Wren has to be the dumbest GM in the world to give a career .248 hitter the richest contract in Atlanta Braves history. Absolutely pathetic!!!

itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 10/08/13 - 05:19 pm
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They hit OK, the starting

They hit OK, the starting pitching was shaky; giving up too many early runs.

David Lee
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David Lee 10/08/13 - 07:32 pm
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myfather15, Regarding your

myfather15,

Regarding your first comment, second-guessing has nothing to do with it. As I said in the post, even if Carpenter pitched a perfect eighth, that doesn't justify it. It was the wrong decision before Carpenter gave up the lead.

Regarding your other comment, the Braves averaged a little more than three runs per game against arguably the best rotation in the playoffs. (The Tigers might have an argument.) They were in a position to win against Clayton Kershaw in Game 4 and go back to Atlanta with the series tied. They battled Kershaw and Zack Greinke pretty well considering, and they had Hyun-Jin Ryu beat with a decent pitching effort.

It's not the lineup's fault that they gave up an average of nearly seven runs per game. They never got Hanley Ramirez out, they let Carl Crawford find a power stroke he hasn't had since 2010, they failed to adjust after Yasiel Puig adjusted to their game plan, the list goes on.

myfather15
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myfather15 10/09/13 - 04:38 am
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Some very good points. So, I

Some very good points. So, I suppose we could just chalk it up; that the Dodgers were just a better team, all the way around. Their hitters did a better job and their pitchers also. We need a #1 shutdown pitcher for next year, and to get rid of Uggla and B.J. Upton for guys who can hit .280+.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 10/09/13 - 07:08 am
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Sure missed Prado and

Sure missed Prado and Infante.

myfather15
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myfather15 10/09/13 - 10:29 am
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JTF; I agree. The addition of

JTF; I agree. The addition of Justin AND Chris Johnson has been a good one, but I would love to see Prado in left field and Infante at 2nd base, with this team. They would get on base and we would score some runs.

David Parker
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David Parker 10/09/13 - 01:35 pm
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BJ and Uggz are here for a

BJ and Uggz are here for a minute. Too much invested to go in a different direction. Hoping they have a breakout this Spring. Medlen Medlen Medlen. Love the guy but I would not have started him against Kershaw. In fact, i would have started BJ against KErshaw. Just a waste of a pitcher against that guy. Kris is a good option against mediocre opponents and when he is streaking. Any sort of disruption and the house of cards collapses. I wouldn't mind see him move on down the line to another team. Love the guy but we need icy-veined aces up there slinging poison darts. Just don't see it in his performance.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 10/09/13 - 01:42 pm
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Yep, Medlen is a 3. Huddy and

Yep, Medlen is a 3. Huddy and Beachy would be the 1 and 2. But, they were not available. When you look at the injuries this team endured over the year, 96 wins was amazing. But, such a sour ending.

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