Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel has been named the American League Reliever of the Month for May, rewarding a stretch where he was nearly untouchable.
Is Craig Kimbrel the best relief pitcher in baseball? A compelling case can be made based on how he’s pitching this season. At the very least, the closer for the Boston Red Sox is the undisputed best reliever in the American League over the past month.
Kimbrel has been named as the AL Reliever of the Month for May.
The flame-throwing closer was a perfect 7-for-7 in save situations last month. He allowed only one hit over 12 2/3 scoreless innings, while striking out 25 batters against only one walk. Opposing hitters are 0 for their last 30 against him.
It doesn’t get any more dominant than that.
Kimbrel now owns a minuscule 0.75 ERA for the season. Only Cleveland Indians relievers Nick Goody (0.00) and Andrew Miller (0.34) have a lower ERA among AL pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched. Kimbrel’s 0.38 WHIP and 16.88 K/9 are both the best in the majors among pitchers with at least nine innings pitched. Opposing hitters are batting a mere .076 against him with a .260 OPS, both of which are the best in the majors. His 1.6 WAR trails only Miller (1.8 WAR) among Major League relievers this season.
He also leads the league in saves, converting 15-of-16 opportunities this season. Only Colorado Rockies closer Greg Holland (the NL Reliever of the Month for May) and Chicago Cubs closer Wade Davis have double-digit saves without a blown opportunity.
The battle for the best reliever in the majors is essentially a two-man race between Kimbrel and Miller, who isn’t a closer but is often utilized in more stressful situations than the ninth inning presents. The notion that Kimbrel doesn’t perform well in non-save situations is being put to rest this season, helping to close the gap between he and Miller. Kimbrel hasn’t allowed a run in those situations this season. Manager John Farrell has even shown more of a willingness to call on his closer for more than three outs, which he’s done three times this season.
When the Red Sox release the Kimbrel, it’s pretty much Game Over. His Reliever of the Month award is well deserved and if he keeps this up he’ll put himself in position to be named the league’s top reliever at the end of the season.