Atlanta Braves' Craig Kimbrel Has Chance to Be Greatest Closer of All-Time

By Josh McKinney
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera will retire at the end of the season with the most saves in MLB history, a whopping 649 and counting. Since taking over as the club’s full-time closer in 1997, he has recorded at least 28 saves in every season that he has made at least 45 appearances, which has happened all but once — last year.

Former San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman also posted some incredible numbers during his legendary 18-year career, which lasted from 1993-2010 and included one season of 50-plus saves, nine seasons of 40-plus saves and 13 seasons of 30-plus saves, resulting in a final tally of 601, second all-time behind Rivera.

When all is said and done, they may both be looking up at another guy, because Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel is getting it done at a historic pace.

After bursting onto the scene in the middle of the 2010 season and posting a 4-0 record and an 0.44 ERA in 21 appearances out of the Braves bullpen, Kimbrel was named the team’s closer to begin the 2011 campaign.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Over the past three years, the Huntsville, Ala. native has recorded 46, 42 and 44 saves — with three weeks left in the season, that final number is likely to increase — giving him 133 saves in 147 chances, which is a conversion percentage of 90.5 percent. In addition, his ERA has gone from 2.10 in 2011 to 1.01 last season and 0.94 so far this year, with each season being highlighted by an All-Star appearance.

While the 25-year-old right-hander still has plenty of years left and could either improve even more or drastically decline, the fact that he is currently on pace to break records set by a pair of future Hall of Famers bodes very well for his own future.

For instance, if Kimbrel were to average 40 saves over the next 14 seasons, which would give him the same number of years as Rivera and Hoffman, he would end up with an eye-popping 693 saves.

Only time will tell, but he has been both dominant and durable thus far.

And don’t even get me started on his hefty strikeout-to-walk ratio. Talk about eye-popping.

Josh McKinney is a writer for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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