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Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel
Kimbrel pitching in 2011
San Diego Padres – No. 46
Relief pitcher
Born: (1988-05-28) May 28, 1988 (age 32)
Huntsville, Alabama
Bats: Right Throws: Right
MLB debut
May 7, 2010 for the Atlanta Braves
Career statistics
(through May 27, 2015)
Win–loss record 15–11
Earned run average 1.64
Strikeouts 502
Saves 198
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Career highlights and awards

Craig Michael Kimbrel (born May 28, 1988) is an American professional baseball relief pitcher for the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball (MLB). He is a four-time All-Star, and has led the National League in saves for four consecutive seasons from 2011 through 2014. He played for the United States national team in the World Baseball Classic in 2013.

As a rookie with the Atlanta Braves in 2011, Kimbrel was named their closer, and set an MLB record for saves by a rookie with 46. He was awarded the National League's 2011 Rookie of the Year Award.[1] On June 6, 2014, he recorded his 155th save to surpass John Smoltz as the Braves' all-time leader in saves. Kimbrel was traded to San Diego prior to the start of the 2015 season. He has been revered for the speed of his fastball, as well as his unique and intimidating pre-pitch stare.[2]

Professional career

Atlanta Braves

Kimbrel was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 33rd round of the 2007 draft, but elected to remain at Wallace State Community College in order to improve his draft position. He was then taken by the Braves in the third round of the 2008 draft, and was the 96th player chosen.[3]


Kimbrel got his first call up from Gwinnett on May 15, 2010, to replace the injured Jair Jurrjens on the roster.[4] He was called up for the second time in his career on June 4, 2010, to replace Takashi Saito, who was placed on the 15-day DL.[5] He earned his first major league save on September 19, 2010 against the New York Mets. Kimbrel's record for the 2010 season was 4–0, with one save and a 0.44 ERA in 2023 innings. He recorded 40 strikeouts and 16 walks.[3] In the 2010 playoffs, he shut down the eventual World Champion San Francisco Giants on several occasions; he had 7 strikeouts in a total of 413 innings, appearing in all 4 games of the NLDS between the Giants and the Braves.


Kimbrel made the roster to start the 2011 season as the team's primary closer. He was successful in his first four save opportunities before blowing his first career save on April 21, 2011. On June 3, 2011 in a game versus the New York Mets, Kimbrel passed the record for most saves by a National League rookie before the All-Star break.[6] He is the fastest Braves pitcher to reach 100 career strikeouts, doing so in 5913 career innings. His new record surpassed the previous record set by John Rocker in the 1998–1999 season, where it took Rocker 70 career innings to reach the 100 career strikeout mark.[7] On July 5, his 26th save matched Jonathan Papelbon's record for most saves by a rookie before the All-Star break.[8] On July 7, Kimbrel's 27th save of the year against the Colorado Rockies broke Papelbon's record.[9]

File:Craig Kimbrel 9-23-11.jpg
Kimbrel on the mound in 2011

Kimbrel was selected to the 2011 All Star Game during his first full season in the majors. San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy choose Kimbrel as a replacement for Giants pitcher Matt Cain.

On July 22, 2011 in a game versus the Cincinnati Reds, Kimbrel broke the Braves rookie record for saves in a season (31).[10]

On August 9, 2011 in a game versus the Florida Marlins, Kimbrel tied the National League rookie record for saves in a season (36 by Todd Worrell of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1986). He broke that record on August 17 in a game versus the San Francisco Giants. On August 21, 2011, Kimbrel recorded his 100th strike out which coincided with his 39th save of the season and a string of 3023 innings without yielding a run.[11][12] On August 23, 2011, Kimbrel recorded his 40th save, tying the rookie save record of Neftalí Feliz. He subsequently broke this record with his 41st save on August 31 with two strike outs in a game against the Washington Nationals. At the time, he led the majors in saves and had not given up a run in his last 34 innings.[13] The following night September 1, 2011, Kimbrel surpassed Cliff Lee's record of thirty four scoreless innings with 3423 scoreless innings for the longest scoreless streak in the majors in 2011.[14] The scoreless inning streak came to an end after 3813 innings, on September 9, 2011.[15]

He was named the NL Rookie of the Month and MLB Delivery Man of the Month for August 2011.[16][17]

The Braves season ended when he blew a save against the Philadelphia Phillies in the last game of the season. The loss knocked Atlanta out of playoff contention, completing a late-season collapse that squandered an early-September lead of 8½ games.[18] Kimbrel's mediocre September (4.76 ERA)[19] led to charges that manager Fredi González had overworked him over the course of the season.[20][21]

Kimbrel ended the season tied for the National League lead with 46 saves—shattering the previous rookie record of 40, set by Feliz in 2010—and led the Major Leagues with 127 strikeouts in 77 innings of relief.[22]

On November 14, the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced the results of their 2011 National League Rookie of the Year vote; Craig Kimbrel received all 32 first-place ballots—the first unanimous selection since 2001 winner Albert Pujols—for 160 points. Freddie Freeman finished second in the voting with 21 second-place votes and seven third-place votes, for a total of 70 points[23]—making the pair the first team-mates to take the top two spots since 1989, when the Chicago Cubs' Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith came in first and second in the balloting.[24][25] The only other time two Braves finished in the top five, the organization was still located in Milwaukee—Gene Conley was voted third-best rookie of the 1954 season; Hank Aaron came in fourth.[22]


Kimbrel again made the All-Star team in 2012. He struck out the two batters he faced.[26] He won the MLB Delivery Man Award for September 2012.[27]

Kimbrel was thoroughly dominant throughout the 2012 season. He led the National League with 42 saves (in 45 opportunities) and Win Probability Added among pitchers. He struck out 116 batters in 62 23 innings, producing a K/9 rate of 16.7.[28] In so doing, he also became the first pitcher in history to strike out at least half the batters he faced during a season.[29] He also went to an 0–2 count on 56% of the batters he faced.[30] Kimbrel allowed only 3.9 hits and 2.0 walks per 9 innings he pitched, giving him a WHIP of 0.65 and a batting average against of .126. He finished with an ERA of 1.01.[28] He won the NL Rolaids Relief Man Award.[31] Kimbrel finished fifth in the 2012 National League Cy Young award voting,[32] and eighth in the 2012 National League MVP voting.[33]


File:Craig Kimbrel 2013 Spring Training.jpg
Kimbrel in his pre-pitch stance during 2013 Spring Training.

Kimbrel began the 2013 season with a total of three blown saves during his first nine save opportunities, tying his personal record for blown saves during the entire 2012 season.[34] Nonetheless, on May 9, 2013 in a game against the San Francisco Giants, Kimbrel earned his 100th save making him the second youngest player in MLB history to reach 100 saves.[35] He became only the second Atlanta pitcher after John Smoltz to have three 30-save seasons on July 27, 2013 with a save against the Cardinals.[36] Kimbrel surpassed John Smoltz's Braves record of 27 consecutive saves on August 17, 2013.[37]

On September 27, Kimbrel recorded his 50th save of the season in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. In doing so, he became the 11th different pitcher in Major League history to have a 50-save season.[38]


On February 16, 2014, Kimbrel agreed to a four-year, $42 million extension with the Braves that runs through 2017, with an option for 2018.[39][40] On April 25, 2014, Kimbrel became the fastest pitcher ever to reach 400 strikeouts—reaching the mark in 236 innings' worth of work.[41] On June 6, 2014, Kimbrel recorded his 155th save in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, surpassing John Smoltz's previous record of 154 saves.[42] On August 29, 2014 Kimbrel recorded his 40th save of the season. He became the third pitcher to reach that single-season milestone in four straight seasons.[a]

San Diego Padres


On April 5, 2015, Kimbrel was traded to the San Diego Padres along with outfielder Melvin Upton, Jr. in exchange for Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, prospects Matt Wisler, Jordan Paroubeck, and the 41st overall pick in the 2015 draft.[44]

International career

Kimbrel was named the closer for Team USA in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Despite not surrendering one lead off double all year with the Braves in 2012, Kimbrel gave one up to Nelson Cruz of the Dominican Republic in their round two matchup. Kimbrel would go on to give up two runs in the game, and be the losing pitcher in Team USA's 3–1 loss to the eventual champions.

Pitching style

Kimbrel uses a combination of a four-seam fastball and a power curveball to get outs.[45][46] His fastball averages 96–97 mph and occasionally tops out at 101 mph.[47] His curve, thrown with a "spike" grip, stays in the mid-to-upper 80s. The whiff rate of his four-seamer is 33%, and the curve at is 52%.[48] This combination contributes to a strikeouts per nine innings rate of 15.08 over Kimbrel's career so far (as of 6 October 2013).[49] He is also tied for third among all pitchers from 2002–2012 in the highest percentage of pitches that resulted in swinging strikes.[50]

Kimbrel's four-seam fastball was the 12th-fastest among Major League relievers in the 2011 season. In addition, he threw the hardest curveball, averaging 87 mph. His fastball had the fifth-highest whiff rate among relief pitchers' fastballs (32%), and he also had the highest whiff rate of any reliever's curveball, at better than 55%.[51] His intimidating pre-pitch stance (pictured above) has also been widely recognized, and has been dubbed "Kimbreling", or "Spider Arms".[2]


Kimbrel's parents, Mike and Sandy,[52] have two other sons, Alan and Matt.[53] He proposed to Ashley Holt in May 2012[54] and married in December.[55][56]

See also


  1. ^ Trevor Hoffman, who acheved it twice, and Francisco Rodríguez are the others.[43]


  1. ^ Cockcroft, Tristan. "2012 Position Preview: Relief pitcher". Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Kepner, Tyler (2 March 2013). "Pitcher’s Stare Is Menacing, but Fastball Is Feared More". New York Times. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Hummer, Steve (May 21, 2011). "Braves closer took unusual path to role". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, GA). Retrieved December 5, 2013. Kimbrel the player, though, is an entirely different beast now. The kid just out of Huntsville, Ala., Lee High was nobody’s prodigy. 
  4. ^ Mark Bowman / "Strained left hamstring lands Jurrjens on DL". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  5. ^ Evan Drellich / (June 5, 2010). "Kimbrel ready for second taste of bigs". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  6. ^ Rogers, Carroll (June 3, 2011). "Jones, Hinske homers help Braves rally past Mets". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  7. ^ David O'Brien (June 28, 2011). "Kimbrel surpasses Rocker strikeout mark". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  8. ^ O'Brien, David (July 5, 2011). "Lowe hits (3 RBIs), pitches Braves to win". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ David O'Brien (July 7, 2011). "Kimbrel breaks first-half rookie saves record". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ July 10, 2011, by Carroll Rogers (July 10, 2011). "Kimbrel named as replacement to NL All-Star team – updated". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  11. ^ Carroll Rogers (August 21, 2011). "Braves postgame quotes following Sunday's win over Arizona". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  12. ^ David O'Brien (August 22, 2011). "Braves' hitting turnaround is more than just Uggla". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  13. ^ O'Brien, David (September 1, 2011). "Derek Lowe homers, Craig Kimbrel gets record save". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  14. ^ O'Brien, David (September 2, 2011). "Jones, McCann homers send Braves to win". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  15. ^ Kimbrel’s streak ends; Teheran likely to bullpen
  16. ^ Chris Vivlamore (September 8, 2011). "Braves notes: Beachy gets strikeout mark". Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Craig Kimbrel named winner of the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award for August" (Press release). September 8, 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Latest collapse for Atlanta Braves came before playoffs this time". Associated Press. September 29, 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  19. ^ "Craig Kimbrel 2011 Pitching Splits". Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  20. ^ Powers, Matt (May 2, 2012). "Atlanta Braves: 10 Keys to Keeping the Phillies in the Rear-View Mirror". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  21. ^ Neyer, Rob (August 27, 2012). "Braves' Brilliant Relievers Being Paced For September". SB Nation. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  22. ^ a b Kimbrel wins NL Rookie of Year, Freeman runner-up|Atlanta Braves
  23. ^ Official site of the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America
  24. ^ Kimbrel, Hellickson take top rookie awards
  25. ^ Kimbrel wins NL Rookie of Year, Freeman runner-up
  26. ^ "July 10, 2012 All-Star Game Play-By-Play and Box Score". Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  27. ^ "Craig Kimbrel Of The Atlanta Braves Named The Major League Baseball Delivery Man Of The Month For Septembert". (Press release). Major League Baseball. October 2, 2012. Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  28. ^ a b "Craig Kimbrel Statistics and History". Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  29. ^ Pouliot, Matthew (October 3, 2012). "Craig Kimbrel first in history to fan half his batters faced". Hardball Talk. NBC Sports. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  30. ^ "Craig Kimbrel Pitching Statistics and History". Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  31. ^ "Rolads Relief Man Award". Archived from the original on October 26, 2012. 
  32. ^ "2012 NL CY Young voting results". Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  33. ^ "2012 NL MVP voting results". Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  34. ^ "Kimbrels 100th save comes at historic rate". Fox Sports South. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  35. ^ Bowman, Mark (May 10, 2013). "Kimbrel earns 100th career save". Retrieved May 10, 2013. 
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ Pouliot, Matthew (September 28, 2013). "Craig Kimbrel is 11th with 50-save season". Retrieved September 28, 2013. 
  39. ^ "Craig Kimbrel agrees to 4-year deal". Associated Press. February 16, 2014. Retrieved February 16, 2014. 
  40. ^ Bowman, Mark (February 16, 2014). "Kimbrel, Braves agree to four-year contract". Retrieved February 16, 2014. 
  41. ^ Keuler, John (June 5, 2014). "A look at Craig Kimbrel’s career highlights thus far". Atlanta. Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  42. ^ Taylor, Jon (June 7, 2014). "Braves' Craig Kimbrel continues to rack up saves at record-setting pace". Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  43. ^ Bowman, Mark (August 30, 2014). "Kimbrel joins short, elite list with 40th save". Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  44. ^ O'Brien, David (April 5, 2015). "Braves deal Kimbrel, Upton to Padres". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved April 5, 2015. 
  45. ^ Bowman, Mark (April 15, 2012). "Curveball comes through for Kimbrel". Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  46. ^ Kepner, Tyler (3 March 2013). "Brave's Stare Is Menacing, But Fastball Is Feared More". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 June 2013. 
  47. ^ Official Twitter Account of MLB on Twitter
  48. ^ "Brooks Baseball · Home of the PitchFX Tool – Player Card: Craig Kimbrel". Brooks Baseball. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  49. ^ "Craig Kimbrel Statistics and History -". Retrieved August 13, 2012. 
  50. ^ "Major League Leaderboards » 2012 » Pitchers » Plate Discipline Statistics". Fangraphs. Retrieved 29 August 2012. Minimum 100 innings pitched. 
  51. ^ "PitchFX Leaderboards". Baseball Prospectus. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  52. ^ McCarter, Mark (November 15, 2011). "Cause for celebration: Huntsville's Craig Kimbrel is National League Rookie of the Year". The Birmingham News. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  53. ^ McCarter, Mark (July 8, 2012). "Craig Kimbrel continues to dominate as Braves' ace closer". The Birmingham News. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  54. ^ Goold, Derrick (May 13, 2012). "Carpenter feeling better, expects to throw in June". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  55. ^ Rogers, Carroll (October 11, 2012). "With help from Wagner, Kimbrel puts blown save behind him". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  56. ^ Moore, Russell (January 4, 2013). "Former Wallace State pitcher Craig Kimbrel appreciative of mental toughness he developed while with Lions, proud of program’s tradition". Wallace State Community College. Archived from the original on February 28, 2015. Retrieved February 28, 2015 – via National Junior College Athletic Association. 

External links