Carroll Rogers on the (very young) man who is slated to replace Billy Wagner:
When asked at what point last year he realized he could do the major league job, here’s what he said:
“There was never really a point last year where I didn’t think I could do it,” Kimbrel said. “I can’t go on the mound and think ‘I can’t do it,’ because then I’ll be in a losing situation.”
He wasn’t in too many of those. Kimbrel and his 96, 97 mph fastball allowed only one earned run in 20 2/3 innings over four major league stints last season, going 4-0 with an 0.44 ERA. This was on top of going 3-2 with a 1.62 ERA and 23 saves for Triple-A Gwinnett.
The most impressive thing about Kimbrel is missing from the above ... In those (almost) 21 innings, he struck out 40 hitters. Granted, he also walked 16 of them. Thanks to all those walks, Kimbrel's strikeout-to-walk ratio was just 2.5, which is fine but less than brilliant. He didn't give up a single home run, which is brilliant (if obviously unsustainable over the long haul). Oddly, in the minors his strikeout rate wasn't quite as high, but neither was his walk rate, making for a K/W ratio practically the same as in the majors. We should probably just assume that this is who he is, with the caveat that as he matures his command should improve at least a little.
There may be a few bumps along the way. But Carlos Marmol is the same sort of pitcher, and he's got a 2.54 ERA over the past four seasons. If Fredi Gonzalez can live with the occasional ugly outing, Kimbrel should do perfectly well as the Braves' closer.