Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel isn’t just good, he’s great and he might just be getting started
When the Red Sox traded for Craig Kimbrel prior to the 2016 season they were hoping that a change of scenery from San Diego would bring back memories of playing for a contender. The numbers have been staggering so far in 2017. It’s clear Kimbrel is very happy and very comfortable playing in Beantown. When he was a Brave, he had 186 saves in 205 chances. That’s a 90.7% save percentage success rate.
Ironically enough he also went 39 for 43 in San Diego which also equated to a 90.7% success rate. He was only 26 before departing for the Pads in April of 2015. He lasted just one season in San Diego before getting moved on November 13th, 2015 to Boston. The cost for Kimbrel was steep but well worth the price. The Sox sent four prospects to San Diego to complete the deal.
Just how good is Craig Kimbrel? The word good would be insulting. He’s the best closer in baseball. He’s saved 15 of 16 save chances and the only chance he blew, he ended up with the victory going two innings striking out five. In the 21 games where he has pitched one inning or more, he has at least one strike out in 17 of those games. It took a little while for him to heat up but since the end of April he has absolutely caught fire.
Kimbrel has allowed only two runs on six hits in 25 2/3rd’s innings with three walks and 45 strike outs on the season. That’s a 16.9 K/9 ratio for those following along, his second best total since his rookie campaign in 2010 when he had a 17.4 K/9 ratio through 20 2/3rd’s innings with 40 K’s. Releasing the Kimbrel in the 9th inning in May has been automatic. He even came in to get a crucial hold where they needed two big outs, of course both went for strike outs.
The flamethrower in May struck out 25 batters in 12 2/3rd’s innings while allowing just one hit and one walk which he gave up in his second to last appearance. He had a 17.8 K/9 ratio in May alone. He seems to be getting better as the season rolls on. Past the 8th inning, if the Red Sox have a lead, you can expect it to be closed out by the Red Rocket.
In games that he’s pitched one inning or less he’s gotten out of the inning in less than 20 pitches. He’s doing it all on two pitches, a blistering fastball that regularly touches 99 mph, sometimes tapping into triple digits and a knee buckling knuckle curve that makes hitters look foolish.
He has struck out the side in eight of his appearances this season and has struck out at least two batters 14 times. He’s also is sporting a microscopic 0.75 ERA. The last run he gave up was a solo shot on April 20th to the Jays in Toronto. In Kimbrel’s 23 appearances this season, only once has allowed more than one batter to reach base.
Kimbrel currently stands in 32nd place on the career saves list all time in Major League Baseball with 271 saves. Assuming he just pitches until he’s 40 years old and averages 33 saves, his career total could surpass the 600 total which has only been reached by two pitchers, Trevor Hoffman (601 career saves) and Mariano Rivera (652 career saves). Both have awards named after them.
Assuming he pitches and can get the save opportunities baring any set backs, it’s possible that Kimbrel could break Mo’s record for most career saves. While we’re still possibly a few years away from calling it, Kimbrel could become the best closer of all time.
Photo Credit – Elise Amendola – AP Photo