Is Craig Kimbrel the Greatest Closer of All Time?

Is Craig Kimbrel the Greatest Closer of All Time?

by January 27, 2019 0 comments

Earlier in the offseason, Craig Kimbrel’s agent David Meter made the proclamation that his client is the greatest closer of all-time. Consequently, the asking price from his camp was somewhere in the ballpark of $100 million total over the span of six seasons.

When that report first came out, Twitter went into a frenzy. Everything from downplaying the successes of the flamethrower, to calling for Meter to be fired. It was a wild few weeks or so while we waited for the flames to settle down.

With all of that in mind, he still remains unsigned as the calendar is getting ready to flip to February. While it’s tough to accurately analyze why the Alabama native is still on the market, we can analyze whether or not he truly can be considered the greatest closer of all-time.

The synopsis: It’s not as far-fetched as you may think.

In all honesty, it depends on how one analyzes a closer’s numbers. The general consensus is that recently inducted Hall of Fame righty Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer ever. Mainly because of his 652 saves, and career postseason ERA of 0.70. However, there’s more to it than just that.

When dissecting the career of Craig Kimbrel, one can’t help but point to the number of saves he has at just 30 years of age — 333, good for 14th all-time. He’s also just 35 saves away from moving into sole possession of tenth all-time.

However, there’s more to being a closer than just the amount of saves recorded. There’s the number of runs you allow, baserunners allowed, as well as the percentage of baserunners you leave on base whether inherited or your own doing.

Starting with Kimbrel’s career ERA. Among relievers, he is second in all-time career ERA and depending on whether you view Zach Britton as a closer or not, you could say Kimbrel has the best career ERA of any closer. Even having two lackluster seasons in Boston, it seems to have done nothing to this Hall of Fame resume.

Moving on from ERA to WHIP, Kimbrel’s sits at 0.92, which is good for fourth-best among all qualifying pitchers. Even with the question marks surrounding him and his command over the years, it’s still done nothing to hurt that.

Kimbrel also ranks first all-time in ERA- and opponent batting average, as well as second-best in FIP and FIP-, K/9, and strikeout rate. The latter of the bunch has him sitting just 0.1 percent worse than Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman for first all-time.

Let us not forget that Craig Kimbrel is just 30 years old, and has at least six or so years left in his career. He still has plenty of time to catch up to Mariano Rivera in saves. Especially at his respective pace, besting Rivera’s 42-39 per-162.

Before completely dismissing the question, think for a moment or two. Are career saves really worth overlooking a stat line that already has him among the best ever? He may not be the greatest closer of all-time just yet, but David Meter may not have been too extreme when he said it.

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