Red Sox: Heathcliff Slocumb Redux
Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel has the same knack for ninth inning adventures as the walkmiester himself – Heathcliff Slocumb.
For a season and a half, the Boston Red Sox had a closer that would make every game an adventure with quite possibly the most consistently nerve racking pitching I have seen from the bullpen – say hello to Heathcliff Slocumb.
Slocumb will forever be remembered as the player traded to Seattle for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. Who could blame Seattle since they did finish first in the American League West and did need some extra arm – even of questionable quality – out of their bullpen.
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The numbers for Slocumb in Boston were dazzling depending upon how you wish to define dazzling. Slocumb appeared in 124 games for the Red Sox and finished with a 5-10 record and a 4.02 ERA. That scratches the surface as what will certainly jump out to any observer of the statistics is a BB/9 of 6.2.
In 1996 Slocumb was presentable with a 5-5 record and a 3.02 ERA. That first season Slocumb managed 31 saves and had eight blown saves, but the BB/9 was 5.9 and his K/9 was 9.5. In 1997 it was a disaster. A Slocumb appearance was greeted by hitters as a new load of trash would be by seagulls at a landfill. Off to Seattle, where Slocumb saved 10 games in 11 tries, but managed to continue to issue free passes in droves with a BB/9 of 4.8.
I despise walks and Slocumb had perfected walking batters to an art form that few manage to reach. The Picasso of walks – a Flemish Master of walks. Fenway was the Louvre of walks with Heathcliff on the mound.
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Now we are blessed with a replacement in Craig Kimbrel who is attempting to emulate the finest walking efforts of Slocumb. Against the Yankees Kimbrel put forth an exquisite masterpiece of walks with four in a row – even Heathcliff would tip his cap to such a marvelous presentation. At last glance Kimbrel was in the rarefied BB/9 of 4.9 that is so Heathcliff like.
Face it, folks, with Kimbrel on the mound I would strongly urge that you invest in some anxiety medications or a portable defibrillator. Maybe excessive consumption of adult beverages to calm your nerves or to place you in a stupor and miss the cliff-hanging appearance?
How I remember those fretful days at Fenway Park when Slocumb would enter the game. In the best of the best he would string together a series of 3-1 counts and miraculously exit with a save.
A clean inning with Kimbrel is rare and it was with Slocumb. However, Kimbrel has exceptional “stuff” and Slocumb did not, but he did have a decent repertoire that included an above average fastball and that is where they differ. Kimbrel has a K/9 that is among the best and that is best ever.
Kimbrel can correct his various pitching sins with heat and especially high heat that seems to entice batters who simply swing either far too late or hopelessly through the pitch. Toss in that nasty curve and when all the cylinders are clicking Kimbrel is what he has been – one of the very best. Slocumb never had that level of talent, power arm, or the illustrious history of accomplishments that Kimbrel has.
Next: Betts cleaning up the future
For now, I will have to accept the fact that a Kimbrel appearance will elevate my heart rate, create new expletives and bring back the fond memories of Slocumb, but with far better results.