On paper, the 2018 World Series proves to be quite the entertaining matchup. Two of the three highest payrolls are set to square off, but each team also boasts potent, home-grown cores. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox are well-rounded and, in a sense, complete. However, one player, Craig Kimbrel, will have the biggest impact
Some stars will shine and some will struggle over the next week, but there is always an X-factor. This variable is defined as one that could have the most significant impact on the outcome of a particular situation. In layman’s terms, an X-factor can make or break winning the World Series.
Craig Kimbrel will have Significant Impact on World Series
Craig Kimbrel has flirted with fire during every appearance this postseason and managed to avoid getting burned. An ERA of 11.57 in two appearances against the New York Yankees and 4.50 in three outings against the Houston Astros are nothing to write home about. His ERA against Houston could have been higher, if not for Andrew Benintendi’s miraculous catch to end Game 4.
Kimbrel has yet to blow a save this postseason, but boy has he come close every time out. If these struggles continue, it is hard to believe that he does not slip sooner or later. The Red Sox are going to need Kimbrel to revert back to his regular season form with a 2.74 ERA and 0.995 WHIP in 62.1 innings pitched. If he does not and these struggles, including a 1.89 postseason WHIP, continue, it will be hard for luck to remain on their side.
Other Closers Have Been X-Factors And Failed
An example of a closer having this significant of an impact on the World Series can be seen from a few years ago in 2015. Jeurys Familia proved to be an X-factor for the New York Mets and ultimately cost them a title. The Mets lost the series four games to one to the Kansas City Royals, with Familia managing to blow saves in three of the four Royal victories.
Familia, like Kimbrel, pitched very well that regular season with a 1.85 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 78 innings. He even allowed zero runs in just under ten innings during the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Familia, statistically speaking, pitched very well in the World Series, with only one earned run allowed. However, he entered several games with runners on base that he was unable to prevent from scoring where the runs were charged to others.
Outlook for Boston
A lot of debate arises over when a manager should use their best relief pitcher in today’s game. Some opt to use them mid-game while others wait for the ninth inning. Alex Cora chooses to use Kimbrel, his ace reliever, to close out games.
That being said, it is imperative that Kimbrel shut the Dodgers down when called upon. Boston needs the Kimbrel that they are accustomed to, to trot out of the bullpen if they want to win. Should he not, he and the Red Sox will become the 2018 version of Jeurys Familia and the Mets.
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DJ is a baseball fanatic that loves to talk about the game's history and debate it's current happenings. DJ always had a passion to write, even though he graduated college with a degree in Marketing, and it was one day while sitting in his cubicle at work that he decided to make a career change and put his journalism minor to use, applying to write for LWOS. He currently contributes in depth coverage of all of MLB with an emphasis on the Yankees and Mets. DJ also freelances at MLB/NHL Network in addition to writing for LWOS, and spends his free time reading and watching college basketball.