Well, that was some rookie year. Kimbrel faded down the stretch, blowing two of his last three save chances (and allowing two of the three homers he allowed all season in back-to-back September appearances), and his ERA in September rose from 1.64 to 2.10. But you know what? Rookies hit the wall, that’s something that happens. I don’t think he was overused, really, it’s just that the season is longer than they’re used to and they’re ready for the offseason to start just when the stretch run happens. But you can blame Fredi if you want, that’s what he’s here for.
Anyway, Kimbrel’s statistics are unreal, highlighted by 127 strikeouts in 77 innings pitched. Opposing batters hit .178 against him, and if anything he was hit-unlucky — my recollection is that a number of his blown saves were of the walk-and-two-weak-singles variety. That’s the only way you’re going to get him. As I mentioned, he allowed two homers late in the year, before which he was almost impossible to hit for power, and opposing batters still slugged just .233 against him. The only real chink in his armor was his control, and that wasn’t really that bad — 3.7 BB/9. If he makes similar strides in lowering his walk rate to what he did from 2010, he’d be inhuman. I’ve seen some people, outside Braves circles, speculate that after his late-season swoon Kimbrel might be in danger of losing his job, but that’s crazy talk. If he’s healthy and doesn’t come down with Steve Blass Disease, he’s going to be the man… His 47 saves last year were enough to put him in ninth place in the Braves’ all-time list. Career list. They just haven’t had a lot of luck with the closer role.