How comfortable will either of these teams feel protecting a slim lead in the ninth inning? That shouldn’t be an issue when you have Craig Kimbrel or Kenley Jansen filling the closer role for your team but neither has been their usual reliable selves this year.
Kimbrel produced another All-Star campaign, converting 42 of 47 save opportunities (89.4%) while posting a 2.74 ERA and 13.9 K/9. Those a great numbers, just not quite what we’re used to from Kimbrel. His atrocious 4.5 BB/9 and career-high seven home runs allowed were also concerning.
Those flaws have been exposed in the playoffs. Kimbrel has allowed five earned runs over 6 1/3 innings for a 7.11 ERA this postseason.
While he managed to hold off the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS, Kimbrel didn’t get through the save unscathed. He allowed a home run to Aaron Judge that cut Boston’s lead to one in the ninth.
He has walked six batters this postseason, including three in Game 4 of the ALCS to load the bases. Kimbrel may have blown the save if not for an outstanding diving catch by Benintendi to end the game. He also hit a batter the previous inning, leading to a run that trimmed Boston’s lead to two.
Kimbrel’s two messiest appearances this postseason are also the only instances in which he’s been asked to get more than three outs. If ever there’s a time for a team to ask their stars to give them a little extra, it’s the World Series. Can the Red Sox risk sending Kimbrel out for more than an inning with the stakes this high?
Jansen has been brilliant this postseason, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts. This is an encouraging sign for the Dodgers but is this small sample enough to offset what has been an otherwise down season for their closer?
Jansen converted 38 of 42 save opportunities (90.5%) but posted a career-high 3.01 ERA. His velocity was down and his 10.3 K/9 – while still elite – was well below his 13.5 K/9 career rate. Jansen also allowed 13 home runs, more than double his previous career-high.
These are two of the game’s best closers having uncharacteristically poor seasons. It hasn’t cost their team yet this postseason but it very well could if they don’t return to form.