5 Reasons Why Craig Kimbrel Should Win the N.L. Cy Young Award
5 Reasons Why Kimbrel Should Win Cy Young
While it’s true that relievers are rarely given serious consideration for the Cy Young Award, I’d like to present some reasons why Atlanta Braves ace closer Craig Kimbrel deserves more than that. He may actually deserve to win.
While it’s true that relievers (in particular closers) don’t pitch nearly as many innings as starters, I think in the modern era, that argument against them being Cy Young worthy has become stale.
There are a number of potential Cy Young candidates in the National League this year, and they all deserve some recognition, for a myriad of reasons. But lets skip the double-helix of sabermetrics and just get down to the brass tacks of what the Cy Young award really is.
The Cy Young award is given to the “best pitcher” in each league. Not the pitcher with the most innings logged, or the pitcher who happened to be the only winning bright spot on a dismal team – but the BEST pitcher.
Given that basic criteria, I’m going to point out the reasons why Craig Kimbrel is the best pitcher in the league, and is more than worthy for consideration for the N.L. Cy Young Award in 2012.
And just for the record, relievers have won the coveted award before. Bruce Sutter won it in 1979 (6-6, 37 saves, 2.22 ERA, 110 K), Steve Bedrosian in 1987 (5-3, 40 saves, 2.83 ERA, 74 K), Mark Davis in 1989 (4-3, 44 saves, 1.85 ERA, 92 K), and most recently, Eric Gagne in 2003 (2-3, 55 saves, 1.20 ERA, 137 K).
In addition to those N.L. winners, four different relievers have won the A.L. Cy Young – Sparky Lyle, Rollie Fingers, Willie Hernandez, and Dennis Eckersley. So the precedent has already been set.
There are two standout contenders in the National League besides Kimbrel right now:
R.A. Dickey has been a great story, but let’s face it. He’s a winning pitcher on a terrible team. He’s faced very little pressure this year, and his contributions really did nothing to lift the New York Mets to any greatness.
Gio Gonzalez obviously helped the Washington Nationals win a division, and his season has been amazing as well. But statistically he just doesn’t stack up against Kimbrel.
So here are the five reasons I think Kimbrel is deserving of this year’s N.L. Cy Young Award.
To begin with, a closer is the highest-pressure job on a major league baseball team. They never know when they’ll be needed, so they have to always be ready. And 99 times out of 100, they will be needed when the pressure is at its peak. Hence the term “closer”…come in, and close the door on the game. Starters know pretty much exactly when they’ll be pitching and have a set number of days between appearances.
Kimbrel’s 16.2 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, and his strikeout-hit ratio of 107-26 are the best in MLB history. No other pitcher in the history of the game has been able to come in and just blow by hitters and make them either whiff helplessly, or stand there like frozen pizza on a called third strike the way that Kimbrel has this season.
Opponents are batting a meager .129 against Kimbrel this season. That’s the lowest OPP in the majors since 1900. Combine that with his 0.65 WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched) - which is also the best since 1900 - and it adds up to very few batters even being able to reach first base against Kimbrel, less yet cross home plate.
THE STANDARD STATS
ERA of 1.02, 113 (and counting) strikeouts, 42 saves, and a 3-1 record. Kimbrel comes in, and the chances of you winning that game are just about as good of a lock as you will ever find. Only one loss and three blown saves in 62 appearances, and 61.2 innings pitched. No starter will ever have a ratio that good, no matter how dominant they are.
VALUE TO THE TEAM
Of all the Cy Young candidates in the National League, no other pitcher means as much to his team or that team’s success as Craig Kimbrel. He is one of the main reasons the Braves are making their return to the post season, and nearly overtook the Washington Nationals for the N.L. East crown. No other pitcher has had the impact on his team that Kimbrel has had in Atlanta.