When Braves All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel moved into the franchise’s all-time lead for career saves, it wasn’t ust about the total number he reached in such a short time, but also the name has surpassed on the list.
On June 6, the 26-year-old Kimbrel logged his 155th career save to pass Braves legend and Hall of Fame candidate John Smoltz, who set the record while working as the team’s closer for the better part of four seasons from 2001 ot 2004. Now, Kimbrel stands alone and he’s only going to keep building upon that lead. As Smoltz said prior to the record-breaking performance: "No doubt in my mind that this kid is gonna double (the franchise record). … He’s gonna blow by it. He’s gonna get 40 and 45 (saves with regularity). He’s just gonna keep getting better. He has been groomed for this."
Not only did Kimbrel’s record earn him that high praise, but it also earned him a documentary.
FOX Sports South will air its latest installment of its DRIVEN series with "Craig Kimbrel: The Closer."
The episode premieres Friday, June 27 on FOX Sports South following the Braves-Phillies game.
Aside from his 155 saves, Kimbrel has proven to be the preeminent reliever in baseball over the past four years. He boasts a career 1.51 ERA through 256 2/3 innings pitched. Since his rookie season in 2010, he leads all qualified relievers in wins above replacement, ERA, fielding-independent pitching and strikeout rate.
Kimbrel became the youngest pitcher to reach the 150-save mark (needing the fourth-fewest opportunities) earlier this season. He holds the third-highest save percentage in MLB history behind two Cy Young winners Smoltz and Eric Gagne. And he’s done it all in overwhelming fashion: No other pitcher in history has thrown 200 or more innings and struck out 43 percent of batters faced.
This season, he’s logged 21 saves, posting a 2.45 ERA in 29 1/3 innings pitched while sticking out nearly 16 batters per nine innings.
Still, the saves record makes the headlines, especially for the 2014 season. And he’s not done yet.
"When he gets done in his career, it’s gonna be a tough one for anybody to reach here in the Atlanta Braves organization," Braves manager Gonzalez said after the June 6 game. " … Maybe he gets an opportunity to pitch into his late 30s, early 40s and maybe catch (Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman)."