With Craig Kimbrel breaking John Smoltz's record for saves among Atlanta Braves, I felt it was a good time to look back on his career to date and point out how obviously awesome he has been. This is one of the most evergreen topics there are for Braves bloggers, so apologies if there is redundancy. We all know Kimbrel is awesome, but just how awesome has he been?
Since debuting in 2010, Kimbrel has been worth 10.3 WAR. The next highest is Greg Holland at 8.4.
His 43.1% strikeout rate leads all relievers during that same span. As does his 33.7% strikeout minus walk rate. In fact, when looking back at the history of baseball, both of those numbers are the best.
The 155 saves he has recorded are tops in the league, above Jonathan Papelbon's 148. If you recall, Kimbrel came up late in 2010 and acted as a set up man for Billy Wagner, so he hasn't even been a closer for each of the years in this example.
His 1.41 ERA is by far the best in the league since his debut as well. With our old friend Eric O'Flaherty finishing behind him with a 1.68 mark.
Did you ever wonder why Kimbrel is able to throw so hard despite his smaller stature? When he was 18 he broke his foot when helping his father with some electrical wires. A lump of sheet rock fell on his left foot and broke it. With the inability to walk for a certain period of time, Kimbrel began to throw from his knees to keep his arm strength up and eventually was throwing baseballs across the lengths of football fields. He credits this as one of the most important moments of his life.
The fact that Kimbrel is breaking the record this early in his career is as much an indictment over the Braves inability to find consistency in the back end of the bullpen as it is for Kimbrel's dominance. Regardless, Kimbrel has been by all accounts the best reliever in baseball since he first entered the league and is on track to be one of the absolute best at his trade in the history of the sport. The incredible fastball and power curveball may eventually go down as one of, if not the best, combinations a pitcher has ever had.
Congratulations to Kimbrel for setting a Braves record last night. Here is to tacking onto that record 50 or so times a year for the foreseeable future.