•on September 23rd, 2012
ATLANTA — Braves closer Craig Kimbrel struck out four batters in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over the Marlins. Since 1977, Kimbrel is just the fourth Brave to strike out four batters in one inning.
Kimbrel began the inning by striking out Greg Dobbs. He had Donovan Solano struck out, but catcher Brian McCann wasn’t able to block a wild pitch for strike three. Unfazed, Kimbrel struck out John Buck and Gil Velazquez to end the game.
Kimbrel is the third player to strike out four batters in one inning in the last week. Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes did so last Thursday and Angels right-hander Zack Greinke on Tuesday.
Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen praised Kimbrel after the game.
“He’s amazing,” Guillen said. “He’s having a great year for them and he didn’t do anything different today.”
Kimbrel has 111 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings this season. With 40 saves, Kimbrel is tied with Cardinals closer Jason Motte for the National League lead.
•on September 21st, 2012
Some years, it’s easy to be a Cy Young voter. Those are the years a Justin Verlander goes 24-5, leads the world in every category except most resin bags tossed, and makes it simple.
But then there are years like this.
If you’re a National League Cy Young voter in 2012, there’s way too much you have to decide on. Way too much.
Would you vote for a knuckleballer (R.A. Dickey)? Would you vote for a guy who is rarely even described as the ace on his own team (Gio Gonzalez)? Would you vote for a reliever? And if you would, which one (Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman)?
These are the kinds of questions that have long made award voting America’s foremost cause of migraines among the baseball-writing portion of the populace. So let’s see if we can help those voters out — with a look at this year’s pressing NL Cy Young questions:
Starter or reliever?
Some people think no relief pitcher should ever win a Cy Young. Ever. And by “some people” I mean, for the most part, the entire planet.
It’s now been 20 years since the great Dennis Eckersley won the ’92 Cy Young award. In the two decades since, exactly one reliever (Eric Gagne, in 2003) has won a Cy Young — and only four other relievers have even gotten a first-place vote. In 20 years.
So you don’t need to be a Maddux brother to see this has somehow evolved into a starting pitcher’s award. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, as my friends in the Baseball Writers’ Association told me in 2010 when they shot down my proposal for a new relief pitchers’ award, the rules clearly say we can vote for a reliever — and we should, they told me vociferously, if we think a reliever deserves it.
Well, I’ll tell you (and them) right now: I think this is one of those years.
Has any starting pitcher in the National League been even remotely as dominating as Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman? That answer, beyond dispute, is no. And this hasn’t been just routine domination. This has been historic levels of domination — particularly in the case of Kimbrel, who has had possibly the most dominant, overpowering season any NL closer has ever had.
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So why should any voters feel compelled to vote for a starter in a season like this, just because there are 20 years of newfound tradition that say they should? I ran that question past one longtime dominating starter — ESPN’s own Curt Schilling — and he laughed at the idea that starters “deserve” to be considered first.
“I have ZERO bias one way or the other,” Schilling wrote, via the miracle of email. “Cy Young is for the BEST pitcher, not most valuable or anything else. When anyone in this game does something that hasn’t been done in 112 years [as Kimbrel has], it bears noticing. Relievers, in my opinion, HAVE to have insanely dominant seasons given that they throw 150+ fewer innings than a starter. [But] ‘tradition’ is something I feel we need to move farther and farther from.”
So why not start that movement now? I think that time has come. But the next big question is: If this is the year to vote for a reliever, then don’t you have to determine …
For a long time this summer, I was driving the Aroldis Chapman For Cy Young bandwagon. Not anymore.
Not that Chapman hasn’t been awesome, other than in his last couple of outings before the Reds shut him down with shoulder fatigue. Heck, he’s been ridiculous.
As in … he’s faced 262 hitters and given up hits to only 34 of them. … He’s struck out 119 hitters in 67 2/3 innings (15.8 per nine innings). … And the poor mortals who have to bat against him have mostly had no chance, as evidenced by a .143 AVG/.221 OBP/.232 SLG slash line that indicates he’s caused the best hitters alive to hit like Bronson Arroyo.
But he’s still been no Craig Kimbrel. Ready for Kimbrel’s historic credentials? Fasten your seat belts. (Note: To rank Kimbrel’s place in history, I compared him only to pitchers — starters or relievers — who worked at least 50 innings in a season.)
Strikeouts: 105 in 57 1/3 IP, the best strikeout ratio ever (16.5/9 IP)
Opponent AVG.: .128, the lowest against any pitcher since 1900
Opponent OPS: .368, the lowest against any pitcher in the expansion era
WHIP: 0.68, best by any National League reliever since 1900
Percentage of hitters struck out: 49.5 pct., best in live-ball era
Strikeout-to-hit ratio: 105 whiffs, 25 hits (4.2), best of all time
And then there’s the other stuff. With runners on base, he’s faced 71 hitters — and allowed a hit to four of them. … With runners in scoring position, he’s faced 29 hitters — and given up a hit to one of them. … Of his past 125 outs, 81 of them have come on strikeouts. … He’s had eight outings in which he struck out all three hitters he’s faced — more than Chapman, Fernando Rodney, Jonathan Papelbon, Rafael Soriano, Jim Johnson and Jason Motte combined. … And have we mentioned this man has whiffed 11 more hitters for the season than his rotation amigo, Tim Hudson — but in 107 1/3 fewer innings?
“He’s a special guy,” one NL scout said of Kimbrel. “When you go and watch him pitch, it’s absolutely amazing. The hitters can’t swing and hit the ball. It’s that simple. They can’t time him. You see guys try to cheat or do everything they can do to hit him. They can’t do it.”
Looking for a good definition of a Cy Young? “The hitters can’t swing and hit the ball” sure works for me. So if I had to vote right now, it would be for Craig Kimbrel. No contest.
•on September 15th, 2012
ATLANTA — As he constructed his dominant ninth inning in Friday night’s 2-1 win over the Nationals, Craig Kimbrel nearly became the first pitcher in Braves history to throw just nine pitches while striking out the only three batters he faced in a game.
Kimbrel’s bid to throw the minimum nine pitches ended when Ian Desmond fouled an 0-2 fastball with two outs in the ninth inning. Desmond struck out one pitch later to end the impressive 10-pitch outing that included nothing but strikes.
“Once I threw six [pitches], I realized it, but my goal is just to get three outs,” Kimbrel said. “Nine pitches would have been cool, but 10 is just as good.”
The last Major League pitcher to throw just nine pitches while striking out the only three batters faced in a game was Philadelphia’s Juan Perez against the Braves on July 8, 2011.
Instead of matching that unbreakable record, Kimbrel joined Billy Wagner as the only Braves’ pitchers to throw just 10 pitches while striking out the only three batters faced in a game. Wagner, who served as Kimbrel’s mentor two years ago, accomplished this when he notched his 400th save against the Tigers on June 25, 2010.
•on September 5th, 2012
ATLANTA — Craig Kimbrel is always giving. On Wednesday night, he gave the Braves a rare four-out save, then followed that up Thursday morning by handing out goodies from a huge box full of All-Star Game souvenirs.
Wednesday night, Kimbrel came on to relieve Eric O’Flaherty with runners on first and third and two out in the eighth inning of a 1-0 game. Kimbrel struck out Jordan Pacheco before fanning the side in the ninth to preserve the victory.
The four-out save was the first of Kimbrel’s career, his first attempt in 122 appearances and only the fourth time he’s pitched more than one inning.
Having familiarized himself with what it takes, he’s open to doing it again.
“The role of the closer isn’t just go out there and get three outs. It’s go out there and finish the game whenever you’re asked to come in,” said Kimbrel, who added he was “good to go” Thursday, after the 25-pitch effort.
Kimbrel has benefited from a reduced workload, as Wednesday’s appearance was his 50th and put him at 50 1/3 innings pitched. At this point last year, he had already made 70 appearances and thrown 68 2/3 innings.
The flamethrower admitted having to go back out for the ninth made for an interesting mindset, especially during the bottom of the eighth.
“I found myself trying to stay focused in the dugout,” he said. “I saw my name on the scoreboard and I was like, ‘Man, let’s go down there and get me an at-bat. … Nah, let’s stay focused.’ I found myself not knowing how to come out of the dugout — do I run out there or do I walk? I’m not used to making a U-turn to go back out.”
Kimbrel not only gave the Braves a shot at a winning record for the homestand, he also came bearing the gifts Thursday morning — memorabilia from the 2011 All-Star Game, including All-Star Game garden gnomes for his bullpen colleagues.
“It’s something I thought would be funny to give the guys,” he said. “It’s a little different.”
The gnomes were well received.
“I guess it’s for us getting him to the All-Star Game,” said Kris Medlen. “I feel honored.”
Kimbrel also handed out All-Star Game T-shirts to the rest of the team and ordered children’s All-Star Game replica jerseys for his fiancee’s nieces and nephews. He treated himself to a 24K gold ball to put in his trophy case.
Gathering souvenirs has become something of a hobby for Kimbrel, who did so at last year’s All-Star Game, as well.
“I’m on top of my jersey signings. I try to get a lot of guys’ jerseys. It will make a pretty cool room someday,” he said.
“I’m still waiting on Hank Aaron to come down here so I can get his autograph,” he added.
•on September 4th, 2012
ATLANTA, Georgia — Craig Kimbrel confesses he needs to work on his pitches — off the field. Such is his review of a radio commercial.
The second-year relief pitcher from Huntsville’s Lee High, who was named National League Rookie of the Year in 2011, also discusses his hitting (and lack thereof), his role with the Atlanta Braves and some jewelry in this recent conversation with Times columnist Mark McCarter.
Times: So, they’re not letting you play as much any more. (Kimbrel had 32 saves in 49 appearances going into Tuesday night’s game with Colorado, well behind his 2011 pace.)
Kimbrel: We’re winning by more than four (runs). Or we’re not.
Times: How much has that made a difference? There was talk after last year about being overworked. Are you more fresh?
Kimbrel: Yeah, I guess. I want to get in there that’s for sure. I want to get out there and pitch. As long as the team’s winning, it really doesn’t matter. All we’re trying to do here, especially this last month of the season, is get W’s.
When we’ve got starters like Kris (Medlen, 6-0 since joining the rotation) and others guys out there dominating it’s easy to sit back and watch and have a lot of fun.
Times: How long does it take you get to over what happened Friday? (For the first time in his career, he gave up a homer on an 0-2 pitch, to the Phillies’ Erik Kratz, and blew the save.)
Kimbrel: Pretty fast. The next day I’m fine. I think about it. I’ll watch it. I’ll realize what mistakes I made. I’m more excited to get out there the next time, to fix the mistakes.
Times: Hunter Morris, who went to Grissom, just won Southern League MVP. Did you pitch against him?
Kimbrel: I remember facing him this one time and I threw him a curve ball and he hit it past the first baseman for a single. That’s about the only time I can remember. A lot of the times we faced Grissom, Buddy (Boshears) was pitching. And I pitched against Huntsville a lot.
(Morris had few memories as well. “It’s not like I remember hitting a home run against him or he struck me out four times. Now that he’s got a 98-mile-an-hour fastball and the best breaking ball in the majors, it’d be little different facing him,” Morris said.)
Times: You wear a thick chain when you pitch that people notice. What’s the story?
Kimbrel: I’ve had this style of chain since I got drafted. I know it’s kind of out of date. It got lost in New York. I went and got another one (pulling it from his locker to show) that’s a little bit longer. It’s not as much of a choker. There’s no significance behind it, other than I’ve been wearing it since I got in pro ball.
Times: You gave your father, Mike, a Harley Davidson on Father’s Day. Do you ride it?
Kimbrel: No. I wish I could. I rode motorcycles when I was younger. Of course, I can’t ride them any more (because of his contract). I think it’s cool. It’s relaxing. I know my dad loves to do it and I was happy I was able to give him a motorcycle.
Times: I heard your commercial on the radio the other day for the dealership where you bought it.
Kimbrel: Yeah, I need to work on my commercials. I need to be a little more exuberant when I talk. Not like I just rolled out of bed. That’ll come with time.
Times: Alabama or Auburn?
Kimbrel: Alabama. That was easy. You know, I was worried (going into the Michigan game). Not if they were good, but if they were going to be as good. I think they answered a lot of people’s questions.
Times: I’m sure you realize you haven’t ever had an at-bat in the majors.
Kimbrel: Oh, yeah. And I only had one in the minors. I struck out with the bases loaded. But I was taking my hacks.
Times: Do you even remember your last hit?
Kimbrel: A home run. My last at-bat in high school, in the playoffs.
ATLANTA — Life may seem unfair in the batter’s box when Braves closer Craig Kimbrel is on the mound blowing away big league hitters.
But for Grainne and Clay Owen of Marietta, Ga. — who lost their 9-year-old son, Killian, to Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in 2003 — and parents like them, the unfairness of life can’t be measured.
Kimbrel decided he wanted to do something to try and level the playing field. He found the perfect vehicle in Curing Kids’ Cancer, a Georgia-based charity started by the Owen family.
“I’ve been looking around for a charity in the Atlanta area to be a part of, and my agent ran across them,” he said. “My agent knows [ESPN college football analyst] Lee Corso’s son, and that’s how we got involved with it. As soon as I met them and saw what they’re all about, I was 100 percent on board. I wanted to be a part of it and try to help out and do what I can.”
On Monday, he participated in the seventh annual AT&T Curing Kids’ Cancer Golf Classic in Alpharetta, Ga.
“Grainne and Clay Owen, they lost their son a few years ago. They easily could have said, ‘Let’s move on, put this behind us and live the rest of our lives.’ But they decided they wanted to make a difference, and they have,” said Kimbrel, who is the chairman of Players Curing Kids’ Cancer. “They raise thousands of dollars every year for coming up with new medicine for leukemia, and they’ve done a great job. It’s great to just be a part of it and try to make a difference.”
The Braves closer joined Corso, Georgia State head football coach Bill Curry and former NFL star and University of Alabama legend Cornelius Bennett at the event, which raised $260,000, pushing it over the $1 million-raised mark in its seven years.
It was a great day all-around for Kimbrel, a big college football fan and a huge follower of the Crimson Tide, and one he’s sure to be involved in down the road.
But Kimbrel’s fight against childhood cancer won’t be limited to one golf tournament. He’s bringing the fight to work with him. The fireballer will be donating $25 for every strikeout (so far he has 23, in 13 innings pitched) and $100 for every save (he has an NL-leading 11 in 12 tries).
“I have it on my website just so people can watch it and watch it go up,” he said. “My idea is to hopefully get other players involved and let them get involved in an organization and be a part of it as well.”
To watch Kimbrel’s totals go up, visit craigkimbrel.com. For more information on Curing Kids’ Cancer, go to www.curingkidscancer.org.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Author: Carroll Rogers
Article Source: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120515&content_id=31356420&vkey=notebook_atl&c_id=atl
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel couldn’t resist telling Bo Jackson he was an Alabama fan before going out to catch Wednesday’s ceremonial first pitch from the former Heisman trophy winner from Auburn.
“I said, ‘Don’t throw it in the dirt just because I’m an Alabama fan,’” said Kimbrel, a native of Huntsville, Ala. “He kind of laughed at me. He said, ‘I’m going to throw something, but I’m not going to tell you what it is.’ It was cool just to be able to do that.”
Jackson threw the pitch a little up and away but got it to Kimbrel in easy fashion. He was in Atlanta promoting a 300-mile bike ride he’s participating in to raise money for the Alabama tornado victims.
“This is about the state of Alabama,” Jackson said. “There is no room in there for Roll Tide or War Eagle.”
For more information, go to bobikesbama.com.
Author: Carroll Rogers
Article Source: http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-braves-blog/2012/04/18/kimbrel-has-some-fun-with-auburn-great-bo-jackson/