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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Craig Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox: A Few Notes

The blockbuster trade the Boston Red Sox made Friday, sending four prospects to the San Diego Padres for All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, sent shockwaves through Red Sox Nation. While many welcomed the bold move, some expressed fear that the price tag was too exorbitant. While the true cost won’t be known for years, the move should be celebrated for now given the huge injection of talent it gives the team’s bullpen.

Here are a few thoughts about Kimbrel:

Some have indicated concern that 2015 was a career-worst year for the right-hander. However, he finished with a 2.58 ERA and 39 saves in 43 chances; not to mention 87 strikeouts in 59.1 innings. Those are elite numbers, folks. It’s not the 1.42 combined ERA he had the previous four+ seasons but it’s still darned good. If that’s a pitcher in decline, it’s still much better than what Boston has had in recent seasons.

Kimbrel started 2015 with a 4.74 ERA in April and May. From June on that number plummeted to 1.56, further debunking any theory that the 27-year-old is in any kind of definable decline.

I have never believed in the concept of pitching to the score but if there is any possibility there may be a nugget of truth behind it, Kimbrel might be the poster child. This past season he appeared in 18 non-save situations and racked up a 4.02 ERA with 25 strikeouts and an uncharacteristic 15 walks in 15.2 innings. Those numbers completely reversed themselves in 43 save situations, as he posted a 2.06 ERA, 62 strikeouts and just six walks in 43.2 innings.

It seems Kimbrel still has elite stuff. FanGraphs show his average fastball velocity of 97.3 MPH in 2015 was the highest of his career.

His success has also not been a result of playing against potentially weaker National League competition. In 45 career interleague games against American League teams he has 28 saves, a 0.92 WHIP, 13.8 strikeouts/nine innings and a 1.43 ERA.

Kimbrel has faced six New York Yankees batters in his career. He has struck out five of them.

Interestingly, Kimbrel has appeared in 41 career games where he was caught by former Boston catcher, David Ross. In those 41 innings, he allowed just nine hits and no runs.

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