Craig Kimbrel. 5”11-205 pounds. Closer for the Atlanta Braves.
Giving a Cy Young award to a closer is rare. Only nine have ever won one in the MLB and the last to do it was PED-user Eric Gagne in 2003. But maybe this is the year a closer picks up No. 10. I think so.
Enter the breakdown of Kimbrel.
Kimbrel plays in the National League where 20-game winners R.A. Dickey of the Mets and Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals are fighting for the coveted award with him. Dickey to me is the clear favorite of the two starters based not only on stats, but by how he is doing it. Dickey is a knuckleball pitcher that has only 54 walks in 227.2 innings pitched. For all of you that don't know, controlling a knuckleball is no easy task. The ball has a mind of it’s own and that is why I think Dickey has the best chance to steal the award. But don’t bet on it. Kimbrel has the best numbers to win the Cy Young and he deserves it.
In 61.2 innings, Kimbrel is 3-1 with 42 saves, .123 BAA, 113 strikeouts, 14 walks and only seven earned runs for a 1.02 ERA.
To really give you some meaning behind these historic stats, let me break it down.
Kimbrel is making history plain and simple. His 16.49 K/9 ratio is the highest in MLB history for pitchers with a minimum of 60 innings pitched. The previous record, held by Carlos Marmol of the Cubs in 2010, was 15.99. Before him, when Gagne won that last Cy Young for a closer, his K/9 was 14.98 in 82 innings pitched.
Kimbrel’s other stat, the .123 opponents batting average, is the best in MLB history for pitchers with a minimum of 50 innings pitched.
Continue? Okay. Kimbrel’s .356 OPS, on-base plus slugging, is also a record for all the years they have been keeping track of OPS.
More records? Why not. Kimbrel also owns a 0.65 WHIP, which is the lowest by any National League reliever, ever.
That gives Kimbrel four records in one season. And to add another crazy statistic to it, Kimbrel has yet to allow back-to-back hits. He has faced 227 batters and only allowed 26 hits.
All of these numbers, plain and simple, are ridiculous.
If Kimbrel doesn’t win the Cy Young, I don’t know what kind of stats you have to get to do it.
The only knock on Kimbrel that I could think of would be that he has only pitched in 61.2 innings. But can you really put that on him? He doesn’t decide when to come in. And if you averaged out what Kimbrel has done and added on the 20 innings to put him next to Gagne’s 82, he would still be better.
Kimbrel will be the best closer in baseball once Mariano Rivera retires. No doubt. His stuff is beyond great. And People don't value the closer as much as they should. If the Braves didn't have Kimbrel, you could almost guarantee that they would not have won even close to 42 of the games he saved. The ninth inning is not something someone just comes into and thrives at all the time. Ask Andrew Bailey who just gave up a 2-run shot in the ninth tonight. And in a playoff race that has come down to the wire, the Braves probably would not have even made the postseason without him. I without a doubt would give my vote to Kimbrel for the NL Cy Young. He deserves it. They should just give him the MVP award too…