Red Sox: Player awards for first half of 2017 season
By Rick McNair
First Half Player – Bullpen
What a difference a year makes. Last year Craig Kimbrel was a pitching reincarnation of Heathcliff Slocumb. The 5.1 BB/9 was horrid, as each game seemed to be a display of how to miss the plate. As bad as it appeared, Kimbrel was still unhittable, as batters hit just .151 against the hard-throwing righty.
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Kimbrel’s 1.18 BB/9 is an amazing drop from the previous year. Batters know that Kimbrel will throw strikes. Looking at the metrics, Kimbrel leads all American League relievers (30+ innings) in ERA (1.19), FIP (0.78), xFIP (1.23), K/9 (16.25) and fWAR at 2.3. Want a negative? The .211 BABIP – actually four relievers are better.
His workload will certainly be monitored by the coaching staff. In today’s brand of baseball, the idea is to limit the closer’s usage unless some work is needed. I can’t get that excited about a four or five out save since I do have a tendency to harken back to when a multiple inning closer was the norm.
Kimbrel anchors a bullpen that does have the shakes at the time and that is fortunate. A Kimbrel of 2016 may have killed this team – now he is saving it.