One of the best closers in baseball history is in the midst of his best season.
The numbers for Craig Kimbrel are as filthy as his scorching fastball that lives in the upper-90’s. His 22 saves are the most in the league and he’s only blown one all season. Kimbrel leads the league among pitchers who have logged at least 20 innings with a 1.04 ERA and 0.49 WHIP. He allowed only two base runners over 12 2/3 innings in the entire month of May!
Kimbrel has always been known for his ability to blow away opposing hitters but his strikeout rate has been off the charts this year. His 16.36 K/9 is second in the league and his best rate since 2012 when he finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting.
Walks have long been an Achilles heel for Kimbrel, but not this year. He’s issued only five free passes for a 1.3 BB/9 that is nearly a third of his career rate. It’s a big reason why he’s also second in the league with a 12.60 K/BB ratio.
If you thought his sparkling ERA was impressive, consider that it conceivably should be even lower. His ridiculous 0.40 FIP is easily the best in the majors (minimum 20 innings).
If the American League holds a lead in the ninth inning, there’s no better option to close the door than Kimbrel. Don’t count on Francona sending him in during the eighth for a four-out save, just to tick off his old friend John Farrell. Tito built a reputation in last year’s postseason of being unconventional with his relievers, so he may not feel the need to wait until the ninth to call on Kimbrel.
No matter when they need him, expect Kimbrel to be waiting in the bullpen at the All-Star Game. If they get the chance to release the Kimbrel, consider it game over, with home-field advantage locked up in the World Series for the American League.