For all the numbers Braves closer Craig Kimbrel is racking up these days – how about this one? The kid went triple digits.
Kimbrel threw a 100 mph fastball to Justin Upton in the ninth inning of his save Friday night, according to the radar gun at Turner Field. His 0-1 four-seam fastball registered 100 mph. It went for a ball, but it must have had the desired effect. Kimbrel threw two more sliders, 10 mph slower, and on the second one, Upton grounded out just in front of the plate.
Kimbrel stranded two runners and collected his National League rookie record 38th save of the year, with what is believed to be a first for Kimbrel: 1-0-0.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Kimbrel, when asked about it Friday afternoon. “It felt the same.”
That’s probably because he’s been at 98, 99 mph regularly. But to reach that one tick harder would put him in some elite company, especially for a Brave.
Based on one tally in Baseball Alamanac, Kimbrel is the first Brave to hit 100 mph at Turner Field since Rafael Soriano did it on May 4, 2007. According to that report, former Braves closer Billy Wagner hit 101 on the Turner Field radar gun, but he did it in 2003 when he was with the Astros.
Baseball Almanac’s study was not comprehensive, and speed of pitch is not kept as an official statistic, so triple-digit sightings are often left up to word of mouth, individual reports and legend.
It might be a little of all three that had former Braves closer Mark Wohlers registered throwing a pitch 103 mph in a spring training for the Braves in 1995. John Rocker might have been in range at some point in his time as Braves closer. And former Brave Tom Glavine thinks John Smoltz might have gotten there when he was closing.
Braves catcher David Ross, for one, thinks there’s not much difference in 99 mph and 100 mph. What’s working for Kimbrel is the mentality behind the miles per hour – something he said he and Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty were discussing recently.
“O’Flaherty said a guy who throws 98 and is like ‘I hope this doesn’t get hit, somehow always gets hit,’” Ross said. “But a guy that can throw 91, that’s like ‘I know you’re not going to hit my stuff,’ never gets hit. It seems to be a different mentality. And he’s got that mentality, with 100, 99, 98. That’s a good combination.”