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Orioles Offseason Signing Lighting up the Ninth Inning

In a small sample size, Baltimore Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel has looked as good as ever. When the 36-year-old signed with the Orioles, he joined a team that had just won 101 games and snatched first in baseball’s toughest division. He was an All-Star in his lone season on the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Orioles had high hopes that he could shore up the late innings of the contending team’s matchups. What they’ve gotten out of Kimbrel is even better than they could have reasonably hoped.

Kimbrel has picked up five saves and two wins since April 1. He has dwindled his ERA down to an even 1.00 and given up just two hits since then.

Craig Kimbrel’s Eye-Popping Stats

Kimbrel’s strikeouts are coming fast this season. Of the 30 batters he’s faced, the right-hander has 14 strikeouts at a rate of 46.7 percent, tied for third-best in the majors. He’s also one of seven pitchers in the league to not give up a walk yet in this season (pitchers who have faced at least 30 batters). Opposing hitters are just .169, which puts him in the top ten percent of pitchers who have faced at least 25 batters in that metric. According to Baseball Savant, his expected slugging percentage this season is .242. That puts him in the top seven percent of pitchers in that metric across the league.

His fastball is dropping 15.7 inches on average, which is 13 percent better than the league average. It’s a full inch better break than his fastball from last season. According to Baseball Savant, that movement has put his fastball run value in the top eight percent. However, the advanced statistics don’t need to speak for itself. Eight straight games without a run allowed and just two hits in that span put Kimbrel on the shortlist of best relief pitchers in Baseball as we approach the one-month mark.

Milestone Save

Saturday’s save against the Kansas City Royals put Kimbrel at 422 saves for his career. He’s now tied with Billy Wagner. Interestingly enough, both pitchers played together during Wagner’s final season with the Atlanta Braves . Kimbrel reflected on his time watching Wagner’s 2010 season after he tied the bullpen great on Saturday.

“The dedication,” Kimbrel said after he was asked what he learned of Wagner. “The importance of watching the game. Seeing what you can pick up as the game is going on, or really what you can pick up during an at-bat and making adjustments. Learning yourself, learning your adjustments and showing up ready to go every day.”

Kimbrel is a Strong Force for the Bullpen

The Orioles bullpen hasn’t been anything special as a whole this season. Their 3.93 ERA is the 13th best across the league. The bullpen gave up seven runs ahead of Kimbrel in Saturday’s 9-7 win over the Royals. That came on the heels of a four-run outing from the bullpen on Friday.

“There’s been a couple of games as a whole we feel like we could have done better down in the bullpen,” Kimbrel said after Saturday’s win. “But that comes. There’s ups and downs throughout the season.”

Despite the recent shakiness from the bullpen, the Orioles find themselves at 14-7 in the season and a half game out from the New York Yankees in the American League East.

Main Photo: © Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports


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