FanPost

Craig Kimbrel Pitches His Way Into Record Books

20120917_ajl_su8_110_standard_1349022104_730_mediumUnless you've been living under a rock this past season you know that Atlanta Braves reliever, Craig Kimbrel, is having a fantastic year. He's striking out batters at an astronomical rate, and has been literally unhittable.

Many sabermetric fans and traditionalists seem to agree that this is the best season by a reliever, but I want to see just how good he's been. After the jump we'll take a look.

I went into the FanGraphs leaderboards of pleasure and wanted to see if anyone struck out as many batters as Kimbrel has while also limiting walks. What I saw blew me away:

Season

Name

Team

K%

BB%

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

ERA

FIP

2012

Craig Kimbrel

Braves

50.20%

6.30%

0.45

0.25

92.40%

1.04

0.82

2003

Eric Gagne

Dodgers

44.80%

6.50%

0.22

0.243

83.90%

1.2

0.86

2012

Aroldis Chapman

Reds

44.40%

7.80%

0.52

0.25

86.10%

1.55

1.52

2011

Kenley Jansen

Dodgers

44.00%

11.90%

0.5

0.297

76.20%

2.85

1.74

1999

Billy Wagner

Astros

43.40%

8.00%

0.6

0.226

86.50%

1.57

1.65

2004

Brad Lidge

Astros

42.60%

8.10%

0.76

0.292

88.00%

1.9

1.97

2010

Carlos Marmol

Cubs

41.60%

15.70%

0.12

0.293

78.10%

2.55

2.01

2011

Craig Kimbrel

Braves

41.50%

10.50%

0.35

0.315

80.70%

2.1

1.52

1999

Armando Benitez

Mets

41.00%

13.10%

0.46

0.259

84.90%

1.85

2.1

1998

Billy Wagner

Astros

39.30%

10.10%

0.9

0.336

83.10%

2.7

2.46

2010

Billy Wagner

Braves

38.80%

8.20%

0.65

0.246

87.50%

1.43

2.1

1992

Rob Dibble

Reds

38.50%

10.80%

0.38

0.321

71.60%

3.07

1.62

2012

Kenley Jansen

Dodgers

38.40%

8.90%

0.89

0.216

81.60%

2.36

2.58

1997

Billy Wagner

Astros

38.30%

10.80%

0.68

0.331

78.70%

2.85

2.39

2009

Jonathan Broxton

Dodgers

38.00%

9.70%

0.47

0.263

73.10%

2.61

1.97

In this table are the relief pitchers with the highest strikeout percentages since 1920. The first thing that stuck out was that Kimbrel is really darn good. He's striking out batters at an unheard of 50% of the time! Not only is he doing an excellent job at striking guys out, but he's also doing an incredible job at limiting walks.

As you can see Eric Gagne and Kimbrel are the only ones to post above average BB%, while having astronomical strikeout numbers. The crazy thing is that Gagne struck out over 44% of batters in 2003, but Kimbrel is striking out 6% more while walking the same amount. Kimbrel has also been doing a phenomenal job at leaving men on base.

While you may think a 92% LOB% would be in the top 5 for all-time, it actually would put Kimbrel at 13th all-time. The best LOB% by a reliever was 97.%, and that was done by Calvin Schiraldi in 1986. For those wondering I set the IP limit at 50 innings.

I'm sure you know that Kimbrel has a ridiculous fastball, and he also has a filthy curveball. When he faces both left-handers and right-handers he throws his fastball and curveball generally the same amount of time. Interestingly when he's ahead of left-handers he uses his curveball and fastball 50% of the time. Personally I found that interesting, and haven't found a clear cut answer as to why that is.

One friend suggested that left-handers might be able to see his fastball easier, and that's certainly plausible. Another friend brought up the high whiff rate that he has when he throws the curve. His whiff% when ahead of left-handers is 33.91% which is just insane. Either way it's clear that his dominant fastball and curveball are leading him to the record books.

While looking at this chart I notice some other interesting facts. In 2012 there three relievers who could finish with some of the best strikeout rates since 1920. They are Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman. If Kimbrel wasn't so dominant this year than we might be talking about Chapman instead.

Craig Kimbrel is on the list for the second time, last year he struck out batters 44% of the time, but also struggled with walks. In fact besides Gagne and Kimbrel everyone on this list struggled with walks. I found that pretty interesting myself. I also remembered how dominant Billy Wagner was. He made the list four times, with the pinnacle being in 1999.

While it's extremely unlikely Kimbrel repeats this season, it is highly possible that he winds up as one of the best relievers of his generation, or if he's lucky he could be one of the best relievers of all-time.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker