Craig Kimbrel’s season of dominance continued for the Braves on Monday afternoon when the BBWAA announced its Rookie of the Year awards. Kimbrel took home the National League award by picking up all 32 first place votes for a perfect score of 160 points. Braves’ first baseman Freddie Freeman finished second with 70 points. It marked just the third time NL teammates have come in 1-2 in voting and the first time since 1989 when Cubs outfielders Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith accomplished the feat.
The Braves closer was the best option in a somewhat weak class. Kimbrel led all relievers with a 3.2 fWAR (Fangraphs wins above replacement) and was second among NL rookies behind Danny Espinosa’s 3.5 fWAR. As much as it pains me to point out, Kimbrel did shatter the rookie save record and tied John Axford for the NL lead with 46. I think saves should be outlawed as a stat (a subject for a future post) but some members of the BBWAA still drool over numbers like that. Of course drooling is pretty commonplace with the octogenarian crowd, amirite? Haha, just kidding BBWAA, kinda. But even I voted for Kimbrel in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance ballot. I had Freeman third behind Wilson Ramos.
Over 77 innings, Kimbrel posted a 2.10 ERA, an even better 1.52 FIP and a crazy 14.84 K/9. He could have actually been better if he got a little luckier than his .315 BABIP in 2011 and he stranded more than 80.7% of runners on base. Hopefully, the award will help get that sour taste out of his mouth after ending such an amazing season by blowing the save of game 162. Not that Kimbrel didn’t take that game in stride…
“As soon as the game was over, I wanted to be right back out there to do it again,” Kimbrel said. “It stinks I have to wait four months to get back out there. I definitely have this to think about during the offseason, something to work on, something to push me a little bit. I want to get back to that situation the end of next year and be able to do the job next time.”
Kimbrel could have a bright future as an elite reliever. Or Fredi Gonzalez, skilled in the art of Dusty Baker, could overuse Kimbrel to the point of arm explosion by next July.