Craig Kimbrel Blows a Save?!?!?!


On Saturday May Ninth, MLB consecutive saves record holder Eric Gagne breathed a sigh of relief when Craig Kimbrel saves streak was snapped at 35; falling well short of the record 89 saves, short of the 90 saves needed to beat that record. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t on Gagne’s mind Saturday night, but I know it was in the back of my mind every time Kimbrel converted a save for the San Diego Padres. With the stuff Kimbrel has, it’s hard to imagine him ever blowing a save, but it happened. In fact, it has been a tough road for Kimbrel in 2015. A road that many people envisioned would get easier with the move to the pitcher friendly confines of Petco Park.

More from Padres News

So, what’s wrong with Kimbrel? Recently ESPN’s stats and information group took a look at Kimbrel’s slow start and found these numbers that should scare the Friar Faithful.

While his nine saves are tied for third in the National League, his stats on the periphery are much worse.

First, his earned runs. Last year according to the ESPN’s stats group, Kimbrel gave up 11 earned runs. This year the deteriorating closer has given up eight.

Next his FIP (fielding independent pitching – a stat used to strip the role of defense from ERA) has gone up drastically and is 2.11 higher than his career higher. For those not familiar with FIP that is an astronomical jump.

Finally, his hits per nine innings has jumped dramatically, going from 4.8 over his career to 8.5 this season. Something is definitely up with the formerly infallible closer, but what?

Some reason’s this writer can think of are a new catcher, change in velocity, confidence, and injury. Lets take a deeper look at these options and see if one of these may be effecting Kimbrel’s performance for the Friars in 2015.

First, a new catcher. Any way you slice it Derek Norris and Craig Kimbrel cannot have a lot of chemistry yet. They have only had 11 innings of game experience together. That plus a whole new clubhouse could have caused Kimbrel to lose his mojo. However, with the stuff that Kimbrel has I have to imagine that this isn’t the issue.

Well, maybe it is a change in velocity? However, after looking at PitchFx it actually appears as though Kimbrel is throwing harder than he ever has before. His average velocity is up to 97.2 this year, up from 96.9 last year. So this doesn’t appear to be the issue.

I did think for a moment, that maybe this increase of velocity was causing him to lose some of his control, similar to how Sandy Koufax had to lower his velocity in order to become unhittable. But his walk rate has only increased minimally, so I don’t believe this is the case either.

Next is his confidence. Could the mere fact that his defense took a step back lower his confidence enough to not pitch as well? Heck, I’d be a lot more confident with Andrelton Simmons behind me than Alexi Amarista (no offense to the Little Ninja), but Simmons is just that good. However, I can’t imagine Kimbrel, who made a career out of intimidation, would be scared of anything. With his strikeout rate and fastball he shouldn’t ever think about the defense. Plus, if there is any place a pitcher should feel confident it’s Petco, with it’s aforementioned reputation.

Okay, my final though is a secret injury. Could Kimbrel be pitching with some pain? If so the normal signs don’t show it, such as lower velocity, or longer than average rests in the bullpen. If there is some injury related performance issue, I have to imagine Kimbrel is the only one that knows it. Either way, A.J. Preller can’t be happy with what he is seeing from the closer he traded a truckload of players for.

What do you guys think is there something wrong with Kimbrel? Will he come around later in the season? Let me know in the comments.

More from Friars on Base