Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has had a difficult past several outings, and his numbers to start the 2013 Major League Baseball season haven’t been as impressive as the ones he put up last year, but he’s still widely recognized as one of the game’s preeminent closers.
No matter what struggles Kimbrel has experienced early this season, his career statistics are absolutely astonishing.
When Kimbrel earned his 100th career save in Thursday’s 6-3 Braves victory over the San Francisco Giants, he became the second-youngest pitcher to reach the century mark behind only Francisco Rodriguez, who tallied his 100th save with the Los Angeles Angels in 2006 and is now in the Milwaukee Brewers‘ minor league system.
The 24-year-old, who turns 25 on May 28, has struck out an incredible 15.7 batters per nine innings, which is the highest ratio ever for a player over their first 100 saves. In addition, since 2011, he leads all major league relievers in saves and strikeouts.
Kimbrel has been a model of consistency for the Braves since they called him up during the 2010 season when he appeared in 21 games, allowing just two runs (one earned) in 20.2 innings, good for an ERA of 0.44. He also compiled a 4-0 record to go with one save, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was 2.5/1.
Since then, the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder has proven that his first taste of the big leagues was no fluke. He registered 46 saves during his rookie season and 42 last year. This season, he is 11-for-14 in save opportunities, which already gives him as many blown saves as he had the entire 2012 campaign.
Even future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees has experienced great struggles during his career, but as his major league-record 621 saves can attest, he has been on much, much more than he has been off.
Thus far, Kimbrel is following the same path. That’s why I can unabashedly say what I said in the title of this article: there are plenty more saves to come.