Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel could find himself in a familiar position on Tuesday night— closing out a ball game.
The 25-year-old hurler will be making his third career All-Star Game appearance in as many years on Tuesday night in hopes of helping the National League lock down homefield advantage for the World Series.
In 2011, Kimbrel walked a batter and forced a ground out in the seventh inning of a NL 5-1 win. He followed that up in 2012 by striking out the only two batters he faced in the eighth inning of another NL win. Perhaps manager Bruce Bochy will call upon Kimbrel to record the final outs in this year’s game as he is establishing himself as one of the most dominant closers in the game.
Kimbrel burst on the MLB scene in 2011 by posting a NL-leading 46 saves and receiving the NL Rookie of the Year Award. His 2012 season was historically dominant as he posted 42 saves with a 1.01 ERA, 0.65 WHIP and 16.7 strikeout-per-nine inning ratio. He finished fifth in Cy Young Award voting and eighth in MVP voting that season.
As he’s continued to post dominant numbers in 2013, his success is now expected and becoming overlooked by the starting pitchers, surprise performances from his fellow bullpen pitchers and the boom-or-bust offense.
However, greatness should never be ignored, and that’s what Kimbrel is demonstrating in the early portion of his career. Among closers in 2013, he leads the NL with a 1.53 ERA, ranks second in saves (26) and third in strikeouts-per-nine innings (13.8) and opponent batting average (.185).
Tuesday night’s All-Star Game could be a platform for the rest of the league to see just how dominant Kimbrel is as a closer while serving as a reminder to Braves’ fans to not fall into the trap of taking their All-Star closer for granted.