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Craig Kimbrel is Fixed (maybe?)

I've been writing about Craig Kimbrel all season long. I've been worried about velocity, figured out a tell, saw that his velocity was rebounding, and now here we are. A couple weeks left in the season, and I'm wondering if Craig Kimbrel will be reliable in the playoffs. Today, we'll look at game logs, stats, and peripherals to try and determine if Kimbrel will be a positive factor in October.


First up, Craig's season statistics: technically, the second worst season of his career.

15 appearances 13 IP. 9 ER, 12 BB 24 K.

6.23 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 1.692 WHIP, 6.9 H/9, 8.3 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9, 16.6 K/9

When comparing to his tough 2019, he's allowing 2 less hits per 9, but walking 3 per 9 more. His HR rate has normalized a bit, going from 3.9 to 1.4. ERA is down by a quarter of a run, FIP is down by 3, and WHIP is up by .100. K rate is up from 13.1 to 16.6 per 9.

While the increased walk rate is worrisome, he's giving up less hits and striking out more. He's managed to cut down on longballs, thank goodness. A lot of the damage came during his early season struggles, so perhaps he's over a hump?

 

Up next, let's look at Kimbrel's game log

Out of his 9 earned runs, 7 came in his first 4 appearances of the season. He's allowed just two runs in 11 appearances since. In those 11 appearances he's allowed 7 out of 12 walks, and only 4 hits (6 in the 4 games prior). He's had 22 strikeout in those 11 appearances, In 10.1 innings, he's face 42 hitters. He's struck out over half of them.

If you take out his first 4 appearances, Kimbrel's stat line looks like this:

1.74 ERA, .118 BAA, .403 OPS allowed. He's thrown strikes 60% of the time. In terms of contract, he's giving up ground balls 33%, line drives 50%, Pop ups 8%, and fly balls just 9% of the time. As a fly ball pitcher, that's huge.

I think it's safe to say that Kimbrel has bounced back from his tough start.

 

Up next: velocity. I was worried if Kimbrel could hit his career averages of a 98 MPH fastball and a 87 MPH curve. A quick look at brooks give us:

Kimbrel is still a notch slower than before. But it's pretty close. Heck, I'll take it.

 

As we move closer to the postseason, can we trust Craig Kimbrel with some critical outs?

I think so. I'm not ready to give him multi-inning saves. But I am ready to allow him to pitch the beginnings of late innings. He's missing bats like crazy. Wildness has been a bit of an issue at times, but that's why you won't bring him into dirty innings. If he seems wild the first batter or two, get someone going as plan B quick. Fortunately, guys like Wick, Ryan, and Jeffress have been very consistent. Closer by committee has worked thus far, so I think that you keep going with what's been working. As of this moment, I'm fine with Kimbrel coming into a 9th inning save chance in October. I wrote off Kimbrel pretty early, but I'm happy to admit I was wrong.


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