Craig Kimbrel and the Reds’ Unlikeliest Comeback

Win probability said the Reds had a 4.3 percent chance of winning when Devin Mesoraco stepped to the plate against Craig Kimbrel. There were two outs and nobody on base. Win probability obviously didn’t know Craig Kimbrel was pitching.

According to Tom Tango’s run frequency calculator, given Kimbrel’s career .154/.240/.208 line against, a run is expected to score off Kimbrel 2.3 percent of the time with two outs and the bases empty. Actual win probablity, then, is more like 1.0 percent, considering Atlanta would be expected to win half the times Kimbrel gets out of the inning with a tie.

Naturally, then, Mesoraco and Shin-Soo Choo hit back-to-back home runs, and the Reds left with likely the most improbable walk-off win of the season.

Kimbrel was arguably the most unhittable pitcher in major league history last season. He demolished Eric Gagne‘s strikeout percentage record (50.2 percent to 44.8 percent, minimum 40 IP) and posted top-10 marks in contact rate and swinging strike rate. Kimbrel somehow still blew three saves (four meltdowns), but he recorded 42 saves (37 shutdowns) and his 0.78 FIP was half that of his nearest competitor.

And when Kimbrel recorded two clean outs to open the frame, as he did against Cincinnati, he was actually unhittable. In 63 appearances last year, Kimbrel reached two outs and nobody on 38 times. In those 38 plate appearances, hitters managed a .000/.079/.000 line — three walks, one reached on error, 19 strikeouts and 15 other outs. Neither of the four baserunners came around to score.

Until last night, Kimbrel’s streak had continued undisturbed through 2013. In eight of his 13 games, Kimbrel had reached two outs and nobody on, and in all eight he recorded the out — four strikeouts, a groundout, a lineout, a popout, and a flyout. Forget a comeback, and forget a home run, and forget even a run of any sort. The last time Kimbrel had given up a single with two outs and nobody on came September 19th, 2011, the last time he faced a two-out, nobody on situation that season. Emilio Bonifacio, then with the Florida Marlins, singled on a “Ground Ball to Weak 3B” according to Baseball-Reference.

Kimbrel was bound to eventually slip up in this situation. In 2011, he gave up nine hits in 39 at-bats with two outs and nobody on, and there wasn’t any reason to believe his streak was predictive of his ability to turn a 1-2 start into a 1-2-3 inning. But from the streak to Kimbrel’s absurd career numbers to the unhittable heights he reached in 2012, the Reds were clearly up against one of the most difficult one-run deficits possible when Mesoraco stepped up last night.

The last 46 attempts to break Craig Kimbrel with two outs and nobody on had failed miserably. Cincinnati’s accomplishment last night gave them what will almost certainly go down as 2013’s most unlikely one-run comeback victory.




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32 Responses to “Craig Kimbrel and the Reds’ Unlikeliest Comeback”

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  1. Steve says:

    Kimbrel is human after all. Sorry, ATL fans. As soon as J-Up comes back down to earth, it’ll be a bumpy ride from here on out. :)

    -11 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Charlie says:

      The only thing bumpy about their ride from here on out is the amount of damaged baseballs they will create from all the long-balls.

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      • Jason B says:

        And they will create cool ocean breezes with all their K’s, too! Might help to counter some of this anthropogenic global warming I keep hearing about…

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        • Charlie says:

          I look forward to when they come to Arizona then to counter the inevitable 110 degree weather.

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      • Steve says:

        Yes, because BJ Upton will DEFINITELY repeat his homer total from last year and Dan Uggla will resurrect his ISO suddenly?? Right.

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      • Anon21 says:

        This is an unusually stupid day to bag on Dan Uggla.

        Anyway, they don’t need Uggla or B.J. Upton to replicate their peak power production to hit a ton of homers. You may not have noticed, but they’ve got at least four other guys with 20-homer potential (J. Upton, Heyward, McCann, and Freeman). Plus some bench/platoon players with serious power (Gattis, Francisco).

        If you’re going to bash the Braves about something, power is the dumbest one you could possibly choose.

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        • Steve says:

          Heyward doesn’t play baseball anymore and McCann is a has-been. Francisco just sucks at baseball. Sorry, but the Braves aren’t as powerful as you think…

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        • Anon21 says:

          Steady trollin’. And I use that in the sense of insincere provocation, since you clearly are just saying things with no connection to reality in order to get a rise. Go back under your bridge.

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        • Steve says:

          Steady trollin’? More like presenting the facts? Prove to me that the Braves will continue hitting home runs…

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        • Anon21 says:

          Presenting what facts, exactly? That Heyward “doesn’t play baseball anymore”? Then what is he doing traveling with a major league team, and why is he projected to come off the DL early next week?

          And no, you prove to me that the Braves won’t continue hitting home runs. The team leading the Majors in homers, with all health issues trending in the right direction, has nothing to prove to the likes of you, little troll.

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        • Steve says:

          HA! Good luck against the Reds next time with Brian McCann back in your lineup. I’m sure he’ll crank out 30 for ya.

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    • gouis says:

      Upton already has come back to earth.

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    • TimBrownU says:

      Yeah definitely. And BJ will continue to hit under 200. And Heyward will miss the entire season due to his appendectomy. Yes Justin will come back down to earth, but the Braves have plenty of hitters who are underperforming also which should negate the effects of Justin merely being a very good player

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    • TKDC says:

      [Guy on Steve’s team] is human after all. Sorry [Steve’s team] fans. As soon as [best player on Steve’s team so far in 2013) comes back down to earth, it’ll be a bumpy ride from here on out. :)

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      • Steve says:

        I do have Jed Lowrie. He’s legit, but his average will come down. Still top production at a weak position if he’s healthy ;)

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    • Josh says:

      Bumpy ride begins with 2/3 against a WS contender in their park (easily could have been a 3 game sweep). Uggla 2 bombs! Francisco with a salami! Could you criticize Heyward and Upton a tad more?

      Moron.

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  2. binqasim says:

    That bonifacio single was hardly a single. Just saw the replay and C Jones horribly played a chopper from emilio which let a runner on. next batter, infante homered to win the game.

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    • D says:

      Chipper said lost the ball in the lights. They had recently been changed for a football game that was played the prior day (or during the prior weekend).

      That was during the Braves’ great collapse. Kimbrel blew 3 save opps that month. I think Venters also blew 4. They lost 4 games they were leading going into the 9th.

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      • binqasim says:

        didn’t know the final numbers but yeah, thought that there would be more blown opportunities for Kimbrel and co. last game was a blown save also I believe.

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  3. Charlie says:

    To say the Brave’s are incapable of winning or susceptible to a huge collapse based upon the minor regression of Upton from here on out is…just not smart.

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    • Anon21 says:

      Certainly no one has ever accused Steve of being smart. He has a certain low cunning that gives him decent trolling technique, but he’s dumb as a fence post.

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    • John Kruk's Missing Nut says:

      But what if you argue that the Braves are capable of a huge collapse based on their extensive past history of huge collapses?

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      • TKDC says:

        The Braves (in the last 20 years) have had huge collapses the same number of times as Randy Johnson killed a bird with a fastball. He managed not to do that again, so I have confidence in the Braves to follow suit.

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    • Bronnt says:

      To even talk about a collapse would probably involve them reaching a position in which they are the prohibitive favorites to make the playoffs and/or win the division. It’s too early in the season to make a definitive statement about who the favorites are in any division, first of all, but more importantly, they’ve only got a two game lead in that division right now anyway. If the Nationals end up passing them after this, surely no one would deem it a “collapse.”

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  4. Bryan Cole says:

    I just want to say that I love the phrase “Ground Ball to Weak 3B”. I know they mean it was a slow grounder to third, but it sounds like they’re disparaging Chipper Jones’ ability to play the hot corner.

    I used to play a little weak 3B myself, back in the day.

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  5. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Kimbrel has blown 3 of his last five save chances, lost three of the games.
    I wouldn’t say the two homers was common, but he is certainly having issues.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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