Craig Kimbrel: From Question Mark to Lockdown

If you’ve been watching the Red Sox this season, the name Craig Kimbrel should be familiar to you.

Fans of the flamethrower who has an uncanny pre-delivery stance, almost resembling a praying mantis, have become accustomed to a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Opponents, on the other hand, not so much.

This six-time All-Star, who was traded to Boston after the 2015 season, didn’t yield the results envioned by many for a deal that featured two of the club’s top prospects. His 3.40 ERA was subpar, and it seemed like he wasn’t all that comfortable.

Falsh-forward to 2017. Kimbrel pitched 69 innings in his 67 appearances. 39 of those appearances were save opportunities and 35 were succesful. Kimbrel finished the season with a 1.43 ERA and a 0.681 WHIP. Kimbrel was on track to strike out 50 percent or more of batters he faced, but at the end of the season struck out 126 of the 254, coming up one strikeout short. He allowed only 11 runs this season, all earned, and 33 hits, six of which were home runs. Kimbrel also became the fifth Red Sox pitcher to get the win in an All-Star game this season.

Let’s compare Kimbrel to some of the other great relief pitchers this season. For example, Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman ended the season with only 22 saves and a 3.22 ERA. Chapman relied on his team’s defense more than Kimbrel since he only struck out 69 of his 210 batters faced.

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corey Knebel pitched in 76 games with a 1.78 ERA and a 1.158 WHIP. He had 39 saves and struck out 126 out of the 309 batters he faced. He gave up 48 hits and 15 runs, all of which were earned.

Let’s assume that the Rolaids Relief Man Award was still given out, would Kimbrel win it? The Rolaids Relief Man Award worked in points. A save was worth three points and a win was worth two. A pitcher would lose two points for a loss and lose two points for a blown save.

Kimbrel would get 105 points for all of his saves, 10 points for his five wins, and would lose eight points for his four blown saves. That leaves his total at 107 points. Chapman would get 66 points for his saves, eight points for his four wins, lose six points for his three losses and lose another eight points for his four blown saves. That makes Chapman’s total 60 points. Knebel would get 117 points for his saves, two points for his only win of the season, lose eight points for his four losses this season and lose 12 points for his six blown saves, making his total 97 points.

It seems fair to say that Kimbrel may be the best relief pitcher this season and he would have won the Rolaids Relief Man Award if it was still around.

It seems like a safe beat, Kimbrel will be your 2017 Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year Award winner, that’s for sure.

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