September 14, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) pitches in the ninth inning of the game against the Florida Marlins at Turner Field. The Braves beat the Marlins 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Craig Kimbrel and Pitch f/x Part II


Well in part two of the Kimbrel investigation I am going to go over his whiff rate compared to the top relievers in the game.

I looked all over for good info on league average whiff numbers but couldn’t find it anywhere. Fortunately some friends within the Fansided network know where to get this kind of stuff and provided me with the numbers I needed. So finally, I can compare Kimbrel’s whiff rate with all the other relievers in the game.

Four Seam Slider Curveball
Craig Kimbrel 13.48% 22.85% 22.85%
League Average 7.98% 12.45% 14.23%

I put both slider and curveball numbers up because I feel there is still room for debate over what exactly Kimbrel’s breaking ball is. I would lean towards slider simply because of the speed off the pitch (about 87 mph) but it has incredible break as well.

Regardless of what we label his breaking ball, it is miles ahead of the league averages for relievers. I feel like we should go ahead and compare him to some other established closers to give an even better example of where Kimbrel stands.

Four Seam Slider Curve
Craig Kimbrel 13.48% 22.85% 22.85%
Jonathan Papelbon 13.65% 15.56%
Ryan Madson 8.68% 3.70%
Joel Hanrahan 6.78% 25.02%
Neftali Feliz 13.20% 9.98%
Brian Wilson 10.42% 9.30%
John Axford 10.68% 17.74%
Kenley Jansen* 17.20 13.11%

*Jansen didn’t throw near as many innings as the other players on the list so his numbers will probably look a lot different next year. However there is no denying that he will be a great pitcher. Also I know Rivera is a great closer but his pitches don’t compare to these guys. Same thing with Valverde.

Looking at the table Kimbrel’s whiff percentages are much better than his colleagues. Papelbon may have a better slightly better whiff percentage with his fastball, but his slider is much less effective. With Hanrahan, the opposite is true.

This doesn’t mean that Kimbrel has the best pitches. Other pitchers may use things like changeups, splitters, and cutters to get their work done but it does show us that there is no one who has a better Fastball-Curve/Slider combination than our own Craig Kimbrel.

Some people might say that Kimbrel needs to find a third pitch to be more effective and while that certainly could be true, I am more fond of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage. A relief pitcher doesn’t need a ton of pitches to be effective (obviously) and especially not when they are as good as Craig’s.

After all Kimbrel did manage the best K/9 among relievers with his measly two pitches. He also tied the league in saves (46) but let’s be honest that doesn’t really tell us much about a pitcher’s skill.

During Part III I will get into the movement of his pitches. I apologize if you feel I have kept you waiting too much for this part but I feel like I should really know what I am talking about before I write something about it. Keep checking in for the next part though.

Tags: Atlanta Braves Craig Kimbrel Featured Jonathan Papelbon PitchFX Popular