Right Field

Fredi Failed By Not Going to Kimbrel

Regarding last night’s NLDS Game 4 in Chavez Ravaine, David Schoenfield of ESPN SweetSpot explains that Fredi Gonzalez should have given the ball to his lights-out closer, Craig Kimbrel, in a high-leverage situation in the eighth inning:

It’s simple really: The Braves had to win this game. Lose, and they go home. Somehow they lost — in the late innings, no less — without using the most dominant relief pitcher in the game. Kimbrel did not throw a single pitch. …

Consider that Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was willing to use Kimbrel for four outs in Game 2 — but not six outs in a must-win game. Not six outs even after Puig had led off with the double. It’s managing to a statistic instead of managing to win. Gonzalez decided he’d rather get Kimbrel a “save” than put his team in the best possible position to win.

The sad thing is, Gonzalez apparently didn’t even think of using Kimbrel for two innings. “I think six outs isn’t something we were even talking about in the dugout,” he said after the game.

But what’s the difference between four outs and six outs? Six pitches? Ten pitches? And that doesn’t even factor in that the Dodgers had the 5-6-7 hitters due up in the eighth and the 8-9-1 hitters up in the ninth. What part of the lineup is more likely to score runs? …

This should be covered in Managing 101. You can’t lose a game without getting your best reliever in there, especially one with Kimbrel’s credentials, at some point. Who cares if it’s the seventh inning or the eighth inning or the ninth. Just use him. Isn’t that the most important thing? I’d rather lose with Carpenter in the ninth inning or the 10th inning or whenever, at least knowing I had used Kimbrel at some juncture.

Look, managing your bullpen in a structured manner in the regular season is one thing.

October is not the regular season.

Fredi Gonzalez didn’t think the best reliever in the game can get six outs.

He ended up getting none.

Consequentently, Juan Uribe’s towering, two-run home run off of David Carpenter means that Kimbrel won’t register another out in the 2013 postseason.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers will play the winner of the Pirates-Cardinals series this weekend.

More here.

Jason Epstein is the president of Southfive Strategies, LLC. He was a public-relations consultant for the Turkish embassy in Washington from 2002 to 2007.

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