Red Sox: Will Craig Kimbrel have a comeback year?
By Tyler Mason
After an inconsistent 2016 season, will Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel come back to be the dominant closer he once was?
As winter is still in full swing, Red Sox Nation is beginning to feel spring coming as pitchers and catchers report in Fort Myers. And one those pitchers that reported to Spring Training is All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.
For baseball fans, it’s always exciting to watch Kimbrel step onto the mound and fire the ball by hitters in the 9th inning. Before the 2016 season, the Sox were expecting to get the shut down closer they watched in Atlanta. But when the season began, some were beginning to scratch their heads in confusion.
If you look at Kimbrel’s monthly stats in 2016, you can see a lot of inconsistency. In the first month of the 2016 season, Kimbrel had a 4.09 ERA. He then came back to be the shut down closer Boston was expecting. But after chasing down fly balls during batting practice, Kimbrel tore his left meniscus, needing surgery, and missed the next month of the season.
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When Kimbrel returned in August, he began to show the same dominance he had before the surgery, posting a 0.82 ERA. But come September when the Sox were in a race to win the division, Kimbrel seemed to disappear, having an ERA over 5.00 during that month.
After the season, Kimbrel’s ERA (3.60) was the worst in his 7-year career. Ignoring his rookie season, Kimbrel also had career low’s in strikeouts (83), saves (31), and WHIP (1.09). Also, one of Kimbrel’s big issues in 2016 was his control, where he had the second most walks in his career with 30.
CSNNE.com writer Nick Friar spoke to Kimbrel on his struggling season and what he thinks went wrong.
"“I had a roller coaster year, really,” Kimbrel said. “At times I threw the ball really well. Other times I was kicking myself.“I think, overall I might’ve had a good year, but personally I think last year was a down year for me.” Kimbrel said. “Just trying to figure out some of those kinks [that caused] some struggles I went through last year, just figure those out and try to get them worked out for this next year.”"
For Red Sox Nation, this isn’t the first time we have seen a pitcher struggling during his first year in Boston. Reigning Cy Young award winning Rick Porcello was almost booed out of Boston prior to the 2015 season. But along with being named with the American Cy Young in 2016, he was also named the American League Comeback Player of the Year.
From being called a joke of a pitcher a year ago to now being called the ace, Porcello really raised some eyebrows last season and Kimbrel wants to do the same in 2017.
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We all know that Kimbrel can bring it up to 100 MPH every time he steps onto the mound. But the big question is if he can control those pitches and being able to send Sox fans home happy night in and night out.