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Craig Kimbrel: a look at Spring Training so far

Over the winter, I wrote a too long article examining Craig Kimbrel's decline over the last two years, and revealed my pessimistic prediction for him going forward. I hope I'm wrong, but his increased wildness, decreased velocity, and skyrocketing home run rate indicates to me that he may struggle again in 2020. The stats of concern:

6.53 ERA, 8.00 FIP, 5.2 BB/9, 9.1 H/9, 3.9 HR/9

Here's a look at his spring training two appearances so far:

1.2 IP, 4 Ks, 2 HRs allowed, 0 BB, 4 H, 16+ ERA

So, the good with the bad. His 95 MPH fastball is among his slowest velocities last year, but we are also talking about his first game action. He should ramp up. He's given up a home run in each appearance. On 3/8, he gave up 3 hits over his two strikeouts, and was pulled before finishing the inning.

The good news: He's striking out batters, and hasn't walked a batter.

The bad: He's giving up too many hits and too many home runs again.

Now it's obviously too soon to draw any conclusions on any of this. Spring training is a time when there are tons of players in the games that won't see any MLB action. Pitchers are warming up their velocity and working out new pitches. Batters are getting stretched out. I'm not sure you can accurately draw conclusions off of spring training stats.

That said, I really wish Kimbrel was not struggling in the same ways he did last year. The two home runs he gave up were to Derek Dietrich and Jake Lamb, who are MLB starting caliber players with pop in their bats. As Kimbrel gave up a home run in one quarter of all fly balls surrendered last year, I hope that batters aren't just going to try to launch angle his slower fastballs into the bleachers all year long.

We'll see how Kimbrel develops this spring. Keep a close eye on that velocity.


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