Padres Editorial: We Traded Carlos Quentin For This Guy?

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Look, this article isn’t saying that Craig Kimbrel is not worth every penny that the San Diego Padres are paying him this season and the title is entirely in jest.

He is absolutely a dominant closer and a piece that the Padres needed if not now, then down the road as already we see that Joaquin Benoit will have some ailments with his aging body.

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However, with the Atlanta Braves being my second favorite team, and being fortunate enough to watch a lot of their games on the MLB.tv app, this is not what I was expecting to see from Craig Kimbrel.

I knew things were a little different when early on he allowed a lead-off triple in one of his outings. Sure, he pitched out of it, but I could barely remember Craig EVER giving up another lead-off triple. Then I saw him walk a hitter or two.

Don’t get me wrong, comparing Kimbrel against Kimbrel is barely fair, but it must be done.

So far this year he has allowed two home runs in just under 11 innings. Last season he allowed two home runs the whole year. Since he became a full-time closer in 2011 he has now allowed 14 total home runs. So 12 coming into the year.

It gets worse though. In 2012 he allowed 27 hits and seven total earned runs in his 62 2/3 innings pitched. This year through just under 11 innings he has allowed 10 hits and six earned runs already! We didn’t trade Cameron Maybin for John Axford. His saving grace so far has been that he is still eight for eight in save opportunities, but we didn’t get Kimbrel to sweat out the ninth inning. We did that enough the last few years of Trevor Hoffman because he had earned the right to struggle and get the job done. Kimbrel is supposed to be in his prime.

He has still struck out 14 in this 11 innings, but again if we go back to his super-human 2012 he struck out 116 hitters in 63 innings. That is very nearly a 2:1 ratio. Much better pace than he is on now.

I’m used to batters looking silly. Swings and misses. Staring at pitches that they watched all the way into the catcher’s mitt for strike threes. Every pitch. All the time. I haven’t seen that this year. Definitely not every time.

I’m not necessarily worried and of course he is no danger at all to losing his job. Yet it is something to keep an eye on that this Craig Kimbrel, is not the one that has been dominating the last several seasons. The Braves were the team that drafted him. He wasn’t too far from his Alabama family. Now all of a sudden he is brought in as the proven commodity away from his support system (unless he is close friends with the Upton brothers) and the managers that knew how to handle his very infrequent poor outings.

Even in Sunday’s game he came in with an easy three run save opportunity. Sure, he got the save and struck out two. He also allowed a home run in the process.

I think some of this is just a new environment and heightened expectations for himself. He wants to impress because that is the kind of competitor that he is. Yet at his best watching Kimbrel pitch is art. I would pay $100 just to watch him pitch a bullpen and so should you.

Craig Kimbrel isn’t used to this. I’m not used to this. Let’s hope he gets back to the super-human Kimbrel sooner than later.

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