Posted October 8, 2013 01:43 am - Updated October 8, 2013 02:43 pm

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.