Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen have been two of the most dominant relievers of the past decade. The two relievers combined have 11-all-star appearances, two World Series titles, three Reliever of the Year awards, and over 1,400 innings pitched combined. Yet as of Friday, both pitchers are sitting on 397 career saves with 400 in their sights.
Craig vs. Kenley the Race to 400 Saves
Craig Kimbrel’s Path
Craig Kimbrel has been an elite closer throughout his career in the Majors. He is an eight-time all-star in fourteen seasons and led the league in saves four times. He has spent most of his career on contending teams, winning the 2018 World Series. As a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, he can reach another milestone in his outstanding career. This season with the Phillies, he has just three saves this season. He earned career save number 397 Thursday when the Philadelphia Phillies beat Seattle 1-0.
Kimbrel has been struggling as of late. With the Phillies, he has an ERA of 4.09. Since winning the World Series in 2018, Kimbrel has not had a season where he earned at least 25 saves in a single season. Kimbrel still has a high baseball IQ that knows how to handle high-leverage situations. The Phillies’ bullpen has struggled in recent years, but Kimbrel brings a strong presence on and off the field.
Kenley Jansen’s Path
On the other hand, Kenley Jansen has flown under the radar. After starting in the same season as Craig Kimbrel, Jansen struggled earlier in his career to get saves. Jansens became the Dodgers’ closer as the years went on. He became an all-star for the first time in 2016 (Craig Kimbrel’s fifth All-Star season), earning two more selections in 2017 and 2018. Like Kimbrel, he has won a World Series but led the league in saves just twice (In 2020 and 2022). Outside of the Covid shortened season, Jansen has produced at least 50 saves since 2014. Even in 2022, he had 54 saves with the Atlanta Braves.
So far this season with the Boston Red Sox, Kenley Jansen has had six saves with the Boston Red Sox. The most recent was an 8-6 win Tuesday over Baltimore. He has appeared in 7 games and has an ERA of 0.00 in 7 and 2/3 innings pitched. Unlike Kimbrel, Jansen has not had problems with injuries and could very well pitch into his forties. It’s possible that Jansen could be on track for 500 career saves when it is all said and done, which would place him third on the all-time list.
Reaching 400 Saves
Only six relief pitchers in Major League history have reached the plateau of 400 career saves. Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, Francisco Rodriguez, John Franco, and Billy Wagner have reached this milestone. Both pitchers have passed Hall of Fame pitchers Dennis Eckersley and Rollie Fingers already. The two relief pitchers have been compared to their entire careers, so it is only fitting that they are reaching this milestone around the same time. As the baseball season progresses, this is a fun race for the neutral fans as two of the all-time greats battle head-to-head. It’s unclear who hits 400 first, but it’s a milestone race worth watching for the neutral fan.
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