After managing a near-record 41.5% K rate last year, most of us expected Craig Kimbrel to post a figure no higher than this. After the first two months, he had a slight drop, sitting just below 40%. Since then, he has went out of this world to strike out nearly 60% of hitters since the beginning of June. His 51.5% K rate would be, by far, the highest ever in a season with at least 60 IP. Eric Gagne‘s 2003 rate of 44.8% is currently the best, while Aroldis Chapman is currently 0.6% ahead of that mark.
His fastball/breaking ball combination is probably as lethal as any in history. His average velocity has risen to nearly 97 MPH, while his breaking ball is averaging nearly 86 MPH with good curveball movement.
His fastball has about 3-4 less inches of “life” of a normal fastball of this velocity. Hitters swing at it about 52% of the time, which is about league average, but only make contact about two-thirds of the time, well below the 85-90% average. It is the pitch hit harder, allowing 21% line drives and only about 33% groundballs, while all three homers have come off the fastball.
The breaking ball is in a class of its own. Hitters swing at it about 43% of the time, swinging more often on pitches out of the zone than in it. It’s also impossible to hit out of the zone, making contact on about 35% of such pitches and 49% overall. Amazingly, those contact numbers are actually up a bit from last year. When they do make contact, the ball doesn’t go anywhere, allowing an 11% line drive rate and 85% groundballs.
It doesn’t take much to realize that someone is special when they have a 0.80 FIP and 0.79 xFIP into September. It’s always nice to close out a game the same way this post ends.