Craig Kimbrel had an amazing, record-breaking season, so it’s just wrong he’s not among the three finalists for the NL Cy Young that will be awarded today.
It will go to either Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez or New York’s R.A. Dickey, but Kimbrel deserved to be among the finalists, if not the winner.
I know, relievers never receive much consideration for baseball’s top pitching award. Only two – Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and Eric Gagne in 2003 – have won it in the past 20 years.
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Kimbrel’s magical season deserved recognition.
“Watching him pitch this year, and the things he did were pretty amazing,” fellow reliever Jonny Venters said. “He’s done some things that no one else has ever done in the game, and I think that definitely deserves some recognition.”
Kimbrel’s surface numbers – 3-1 record, 1.01 ERA and 42 saves in 45 chances – are outstanding, but let’s review his true dominance.
I’m not going all Sabermetric here, but you don’t need to be a CSI to see that his strikeouts provide all the evidence.
Using stats from MLB.com, Kimbrel struck out more than half of the batters he faced – 116 of 231 (50.2 percent) – the best strikeout rate in MLB history.
All those came in 62 2/3 innings, which equals a ratio of 16.7 strikeouts per nine innings, also the best ever in the big leagues.
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He also set MLB records for opponents’ batting average (.128) and hits allowed per nine innings (3.88) and an NL record with a 0.65 WHIP (walks plus hits per nine innings).
In his most dominating inning, Kimbrel struck out three Nationals on 10 pitches to seal a 2-1 victory on Sept. 14. All 10 pitches were strikes, with only a foul ball keeping him from whiffing all three hitters on nine pitches.
There are cases for the three finalists.
Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA) helped the Nationals win the NL East. Dickey (20-6, 2.73, 230 strikeouts), the recycled knuckleballer who just turned 38, is the sentimental favorite. Kershaw led the NL with a 2.53 ERA, but won only 14 games.
Kimbrel deserved a shot.
If you don’t believe me, ask any hitter who faced him this year.
Behind the plate
Losing backup catcher David Ross was a huge blow, especially considering that Brian McCann could miss spring training and the first month of the season.
Ross and the Braves were a perfect match, but he couldn’t pass up the two-year, $6.2-million deal from the Red Sox.
He made about $1.6 million a year in each of his final three seasons with the Braves, a deal considering his tremendous impact in the clubhouse, at the plate and behind it.
Atlanta will pursue a free agent to fill in while McCann is out, but Christian Bethancourt, the Braves’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB.com, could start the season with the big team, although he hasn’t played above Double-A Mississippi.
The Braves could also try Evan Gattis, the 26-year-old who has impressed with his power, but was moved to left field at Mississippi.
Pitchers and catchers will report to spring training on Feb. 11, followed by the rest of the team on Feb. 14.
They will open the spring schedule against defending American League champion Detroit on Feb. 22 and will host the New York Yankees on Feb. 23.
The Braves will play 18 games at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., including four at night. Those are:
• Nationals, March 1, 6:05 p.m. • Tigers, March 7, 6:05 p.m. • Yankees, March 16, 5:05 p.m. • Nationals, March 21, 6:05 p.m.
Randy Ready, who played for the Brewers, Padres, Phillies, A’s and Expos in his 13-year major league career, will manage the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves after Dave Brundage was hired by the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Phillies’ Triple-A team.
Ready last managed Portland in 2009 and was the Padres’ hitting coach from July of that year until 2011.