BOSTON -- Mechanical flaws are something that pitchers should have down by the end of spring training, sometimes they can get away with it until the midpoint in the year.
Yes, problems are going to occur here and there, and yes, pitchers do make adjustments -- i. e. Clay Buchholz -- but that’s not something the team can afford from the guy who’s supposed to shut the door with the game on the line when they’re about to make their postseason run.
With the playoffs starting Thursday, Craig Kimbrel’s mechanics still appear to be off, playing a factor in the six walks over his last three outings.
“You get into some bad habits,” Kimbrel said following Saturday’s loss. “I’m getting a little rotational.”
That flaw has been apparent all season. If you’ve seen any of Kimbrel’s outings with Boston, he’s always good for yanking a pitch or two -- typically his fastball -- into the left-handed batters box.
“He gets a little side-to-side,” John Farrell explained, “and when you see the misses where he yanks to his glove-side or misses up and away to his arm-side he’s not staying behind his arm as consistently as he has.”
Kimbrel expressed that he actually felt better Saturday than he had in other recent appearances. In fairness, had he not crossed up Christian Vazquez, the run probably doesn’t score.
However, it did, and it's another addition to the list of Kimbrel’s struggles in non-save scenarios.
While some may take comfort in hearing that it’s a mechanical flaw instead of a mental one, they shouldn’t. Not at this point in the season anyways.
The mechanical flaw itself -- which has been around all year -- isn’t the primary concern with Kimbrel, because no matter how you slice it, he’s a very good pitcher. The issue is that this can become a mechanical and mental problem. He can’t worry about how he’s delivering the ball; he has to focus on how he plans to get the batter out. Mechanics should be muscle memory at this point.
Work on the issue in side-sessions, that’s fine. But come game time, he has to focus on getting hitters out efficiently, not how he’s getting the ball to home plate.