Is Kimbrell The Answer?


And if he is, does anyone know what the question was?

Personally, I think he’s the answer to the question “What Atlanta Braves pitcher has the best stuff since John Smoltz”? But what I’m more interested in is whether he’s the right person to close for the Braves in 2011.

Based on everything we know to date, I firmly believe that the job is his to lose. He truly possesses elite stuff, including a 98+ MPH fastball with movement. He was tasked in 2010 with two goals: 1) Learn how to be a closer at a high level, which he did with flair in AAA Gwinnett, saving 23 games and striking out 13.4 men a game and 2) Work on his control, which he also accomplished handily, dropping his BB/9 innings from 6.8 to a somewhat more manageable 5.7. Then, late in the year, the Braves needed late-inning help with the big club when Saito was down. He surprisingly had saved his best for last, striking out a jaw-dropping 16 batters a game while giving up one whole run in 20 innings pitched. He even shut down the Giants in the post-season, including his memorable two inning stint in game two, striking out four along the way.

Now that you can see that he’s equal parts Randy Johnson, Jack Bauer, and Superman, it’s obvious that the Braves have no worries at the closer spot until they have to start paying Kimbrell market salary, right? Right? Maybe we should slow down just a little before we start engraving the Cy Young trophy with his name. First of all, he’s a 22 year old. It’s a foregone conclusion that he will suffer some rookie-type maladies. He’ll get nervous a few times, just so he knows what it feels like. Someone on the Phillies could even take him deep! He’ll have to get used to being “the man”. But most of all, he still hasn’t put his control issues fully to rest. With a delivery that generates the torque that his does, I’m not sure he ever will. But I believe he’ll continue to fan batters at unheard of rates, and I also believe hits will be rare. I also believe that the best way for him to keep his delivery in sync is with frequent use, and what better role for that than closer? And, just in keeping with the Superman thought, (and I cringe even saying this), but there could be one piece of Kryptonite out there: Craig has yet to have his semi-mandatory Tommy John elbow surgery (and let’s all hope he never has it).

So what does my trusty crystal ball say is in store for Craig in 2011? I think he’ll be handled in such a way that will foster success. Jonny Venters will get some save opportunities, especially against some of the lefty stacked lineups, or after Craig’s been used a couple of days in a row. He needs to be fresh down the stretch. This will hurt his save totals a bit, but will help his peripherals. I see 25-30 saves, an ERA under 3.00, and a WHIP around 1.10. I think he could be a great asset for your fantasy league, if you can get him.

I’ll throw in a poll so that you can check out your own crystal ball. I’d also be very interested in hearing what you have to say about Craig.

Which Line Will Best Match Kimbrell's 2011 Performance?

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Braves Craig Kimbrell Jonny Venters Philadelphia Phillies San Francisco Giants

  • http://redwhiteandbraves.mlblogs.com Merlin

    I think Kimbrell is the real deal but as you said he will be a rookie and we all know what happens to rookies at some point; a big leaguer reminds him he’s a rookie by taking his best heat out in the 9th. It may not even be a Ryan Howard type but somebody like Hunter Pence or Jose Reyes. Still I think there’s a case he could be our Papelbon as long as he doesn’t get that snarky attitude then I’d have to come b*tch slap him if Moylan doesn’t. There a potential Nasty Boys re-imagined situation where a game could be six innings followed by Moylan Venters and Kimbrell.
    Fredi has experience with the inexperienced and I think he’ll handle a pen better than Bobby who never was in my top ten for that category. If Huddy, Lowe, JJ, Tommy and MM can get deep into games and Chipper, Uggla, Heyward, McCann and Freeman produce he can save 35 easily. Now about center field. . . .ugh…

  • http://redwhiteandbraves.mlblogs.com Merlin

    Uh I forgot to sign up for replies… so… My other concern for Kimbrell is McCann. I think Brian has gone backwards in his pitch selection recently and I know he’s not the defensive catcher he was before his ankle was broken in Arizona. Honestly I’d rather he fixed those than hit 40 homers. Bad pitch selection and defense hurts all the pitchers who like to bury a splitter, slider or curve at a batters back ankle. That’s pretty much every pitcher we have except Kimbrell. Kimbrell needs a smart pitch caller, I hope Brian has been taking his Ginseng this winter or better yet spending a lot of time with David Ross and Eddie Perez.

    • Bob Horton

      Hi Merlin,

      Happy New Year!

      I obviously agree with your Kimbrell comments. As to CF, I’ve decided to pray for a miracle. Any miracle!

      I’ll have to monitor Brian’s signal calling, as I didn’t have that pegged as a problem area. Since that same collision, though, it seems to me like Brian has forgotten how to catch throws from the OF. I sometimes wonder if he can see them. Either way, I hope he’s working on that right now.

      Bob

  • http://redwhiteandbraves.mlblogs.com Merlin

    I don’t think vision is the problem. We haven’t exactly had stellar outfielders, even Jason patrols right field like Magellan and his unconscious fear of the wall means that when he does actually decide he has to go into a wall he thinks so much about hitting it that he hits awkwardly and gets hurt. He reminds me a little of a young Abreu. Frenchy was/is better fielder and Jason’s projected partners don’t give me confidence that will improve. Having said that Brian’s fielding of throws bothers me less than less than optimum movement to the right on pitches.

    • Bob Horton

      Merlin,

      I agree about the movement to block pitches. He also tends to get lazy with technique and glove positioning, IMO.

      I guess it speaks to his overall talent level that we can find time to complain about these things, though!

      Bob

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