Craig Kimbrel: Braves Closer Dominating the National League One Player at a Time
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While Chipper Jones takes opponents off the rails on a crazy train every time he steps into the batter's box, Craig Kimbrel has a different approach. As the 2011 National League Rookie of the Year jogs to the pitcher's mound, he welcomes the opposition to a jungle—one that isn't so pleasant.
The famous Guns N' Roses song blares through the speakers as he warms up his flame-throwing arm. The first batter of the inning slowly steps up to the dish. Kimbrel, always launching out of the stretch, drops into his already famous stance with his right arm hanging in the air.
He only has two pitches, but what more does he need? His fastball is practically unhittable. He fires the 98 mph four-seamer to the plate.
Please, sir, step back into the batter's box and observe the curveball. You mean the one with the velocity of a slider? Why yes, that's the one! See how it bends from the right-handed batter into the strike zone with ease?
Ninety-five batters in the 2012 season have been lucky enough to face an 0-2 count against Kimbrel. Seventy-two of these 95 gentlemen have walked back to their dugout with a strikeout in the scorebook.
As if that statistic isn't scary enough, the fireballer from Alabama is just as dominant after allowing a runner to reach base, at which the opposition's batting average falls to a staggering .061.
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But wait, there's more!
If the competition manages to get a runner into scoring position, the closer with back-to-back 40-save seasons has only given up a single hit this year. An already pitiful batting average against plummets 27 points to .034.
Through 60.1 innings pitched this season, Kimbrel has allowed 26 hits and 14 walks. His WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) is a stunning 0.663. He averages 16.6 strikeouts per nine innings and has allowed a .126 batting average to opponents over the season. Each one of those stats, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark, is either the best or approaching the best in Major League Baseball history.
Craig Kimbrel has mowed down 81.4 percent of the batters he has faced this season. Half of all players that have dared to come to the plate in 2012 have gone down on strikes against the 24-year-old phenom.
We have witnessed one of the most dominant seasons ever.
The batter creeps back into the box. The Braves closer chooses his weapon: a show-me fastball or a make-you-look-silly breaking ball. It usually does not matter.
Strike three. Back to the bench.
Oh, and welcome to the jungle.
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