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Saturday, February 08, 2014

Dopp: Receding Stuff Makes Craig Kimbrel (More) Expendable

Fasten your BNQ certified neck protectors!

In a perfect world, the Braves would extend each of their three budding superstars. But we don’t live in a perfect world, which meant Atlanta essentially had to decide whether Heyward or Kimbrel was more valuable for the organization moving forward (since Freeman seemed a near guarantee to get his extension after a career-best 5.4 bWAR 2013 campaign). With three consecutive 40-plus save seasons and a 1.48 ERA that ranks best among pitchers with 200 innings since 2011, one could certainly make the argument that Kimbrel deserved to get paid—not Heyward, who owns an underwhelming career line of .259/.352/.443.

But for as dominant as Kimbrel has been since his rookie 2011 season, he actually regressed in several areas in 2013, which more than likely had a big say in Atlanta’s decision not to extend him.

...Across the board—both in terms of opponents’ weighted on-base average against him and in “miss-ability” of his offerings—Kimbrel’s stuff depreciated significantly. And while it seems silly to expect anyone to consistently perform at a level he did in 2012 (where he posted a 1.01 ERA, league-best 0.65 WHIP and 16.6 strikeouts per nine innings en route to a 3.3 bWAR), regressions such as these shouldn’t go unnoticed. Of course, now the question becomes: Why did he take a step back last season?

...Surely enough, this was Kimbrel’s downfall last season. Take a look at the first image shown above, which depicts the release point frequency of Kimbrel’s offerings two seasons ago. Looks to be very consistent, no? Now take a gander at the bottom image, showing his release point frequency in 2013. While the red and yellow areas of his release points remain nearly identical as two seasons ago, his overall release points were much less defined.

Evidently, batters picked up on this lack of consistency and capitalized off it, increasing their in-play rate against his stuff by 7.7% over the last two seasons while generating a .222 wOBA against him, up from .170 in 2012. What’s more, Kimbrel’s inconsistent release point caused opponents to swing at roughly 5% less, chase at 4% less and swing-and-miss nearly 10% less in 2013 than two seasons ago.

For Kimbrel, deception is the name of the game. Last season, he didn’t have it (as much), which is probably a main reason why Atlanta chose to extend Heyward over him.

Repoz Posted: February 08, 2014 at 10:34 AM | 71 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: braves, sabermetrics

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   1. Brian White Posted: February 08, 2014 at 12:53 PM (#4653640)
...Surely enough, this was Kimbrel’s downfall last season.


Downfall? That's a pretty strong word to describe a guy who just put up a season with an ERA+ of 320.

The stuff about the release point is interesting, but its worth noting that according to Fangraphs, his average fastball velocity has gone *up* every year (barely, but still). And his slider remains just as excellent.

There's an excellent argument that can be made for the Braves trading Kimbrel, but it has everything to do with Frank Wren's ability to dig through other organization's rejects and find guys who will become excellent relievers, and nothing to do with Kimbrel's (virtually non-existent) decline in ability.
   2. gehrig97 Posted: February 08, 2014 at 01:07 PM (#4653645)
Huge news. A major league franchise decided not to throw multi-year money at a flame-throwing closer. Because, you know, they have such sterling long-term health records.

But man, that Kimbrel is good. His 2012 has a case for best single season ever for a modern closer ("modern" in the LaRussa sense). The numbers don't really make sense:

16.7 k/9
8.29 k/bb
3.9 h/9 (!!)
1.01 ERA
.65 WHIP

His "downfall" in 2013 looked like this:

13.2 k/9
4.9 k/bb
5.2 h/9
1.21 ERA
.88 WHIP


I don't know that it's possible to match or exceed those 2012 numbers, so some regression is expected. The "alarming" number is the drop in K/9 rate: from 16.7 to 13.2 But... 13.2 is freaking spectacular, so what to make of it (spectacular, but not singular, as several relievers surpass that rate every year)? Yeah, he's was more "hittable" in 2013, but it's all relative. Heading into 2014 he's clearly the best in the business.
   3. bfan Posted: February 08, 2014 at 01:16 PM (#4653648)
My theory is that there is so much written on baseball right now, that to have something new and different you have to stake out more minor and minor trends, to establish a new point that someone else has not already addressed (please-no more "Can Billy Hamilton be effective" stories). This story would be like calling for Mike Trout's demise because he 2nd season was not quite as great as his 1st season. I would assume that in this few a number of innings, that a drop off from 16.7 to 13.2 K's per 9 innings is just a statistical non-event (or a minor event). Like the person above said, the guy went from the very best to the very best, but not as great as the year before. Really nothing here to see.
   4. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: February 08, 2014 at 01:28 PM (#4653650)
Yup he sucks. They should trade him for Jim Johnson.
   5. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: February 08, 2014 at 01:58 PM (#4653655)
I'll admit, I was following Kimbrel's last inning on GameDay this past season, hoping he'd get the two strikeouts he needed to push him over 100 for the third straight year. And was genuinely disappointed when he didn't do it.
   6. I Am Not a Number Posted: February 08, 2014 at 02:19 PM (#4653663)
His 2012 has a case for best single season ever for a modern closer

Fun fact about his 2012: 231 batters faced, 116 strikeouts. I don't believe anyone has ever struck out half the batters they faced before.
   7. Squash Posted: February 08, 2014 at 02:21 PM (#4653665)
I have never heard the word "receding" used to describe a pitcher losing his stuff. His hairline, yes.
   8. The elusive Robert Denby Posted: February 08, 2014 at 02:29 PM (#4653666)
Or maybe the Braves figured it made more sense to pay the guy who plays every day and not the guy who pitches 65 innings a year.
   9. I'll Call'A Tony, You Colavito Posted: February 08, 2014 at 02:32 PM (#4653667)
Fun fact about his 2012: 231 batters faced, 116 strikeouts. I don't believe anyone has ever struck out half the batters they faced before.


Not in anything resembling a full season. The next best would be Francisco Rodriguez striking out 13 of 21 batters faced in his 2002 cameo with Anaheim.
   10. Riki Tiki Javy Lopez Posted: February 08, 2014 at 02:36 PM (#4653669)
Duquette's master plan slowly unfolds...it's all coming together...plant "Alec Dopp" story about Kimbrel, get Dopp to pen one about Uggla, throw some magic beans at the Braves, and voila!!
   11. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 08, 2014 at 03:14 PM (#4653681)
I suppose the Braves can decide closers aren't a good bet for long-term contracts, but I don't see Kimbrel's 2013 season offering much support for that position. Even Mariano Rivera had similar minor fluctuations in his level of excellence.
   12. PreservedFish Posted: February 08, 2014 at 04:07 PM (#4653689)
Year to year is exactly what I'd do with Kimbrel.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: February 08, 2014 at 05:40 PM (#4653704)
marmol had a season of 16 k/9 but that was only about 40% of bf cuz he walked another 15%. kimbrel is marmol with control.
   14. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: February 08, 2014 at 08:53 PM (#4653735)
But... 13.2 is freaking spectacular, so what to make of it (spectacular, but not singular, as several relievers surpass that rate every year)?

13.2 (13.16 to be specific) is actually the 29th best in history for a pitcher with 50+ IP. But 14 of the 28 totals better than Kimbrell's 2013 were put up in the last 4 years, so, yeah.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: February 08, 2014 at 09:11 PM (#4653737)
What are the longest closer contracts anyway? Papelbon got 4 years, I don't think Mo ever had one longer than 4 years. Did Hoffman ever have one longer than that? Kimbrel is still under Braves' control for 3 years and, even if they bought him out, they'd probably only buy out those 3 years.

I might do it if he'd agree to a sufficiently low AAV. Given what top closers (Mo, Papelbon) have been paid and Kimbrel's success, I could see the arbitrator putting him into the special category and his 3 arb years will probably cost the Braves something like $30 M anyway (6/10/14) and they might well trade him after this year. I suppose if I were the Braves, I'd seriously consider 3/$25 (and obviously lower).
   16. Greg K Posted: February 08, 2014 at 09:19 PM (#4653738)
I think B.J. Ryan got 4/35

Whoops, wiki says 5/47
   17. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 08, 2014 at 09:25 PM (#4653740)
Francisco Rodriguez, 3/$37
Billy Wagner, 4/$43
Heath Bell (remember him?) 3/$27
   18. cardsfanboy Posted: February 08, 2014 at 10:05 PM (#4653744)
13.2 (13.16 to be specific) is actually the 29th best in history for a pitcher with 50+ IP. But 14 of the 28 totals better than Kimbrell's 2013 were put up in the last 4 years, so, yeah.


More evidence of why k/9 is a poor stat. Kimbrel is the only pitcher in history(with more than 6ip) with over 50% of the batters faced struck out, yet his season is 29th in k/9.
   19. Brian White Posted: February 08, 2014 at 10:21 PM (#4653745)
Hoffman signed a 4/32 deal in 2000, and Rivera signed for 4/40 in 2001, or so says Wikipedia. Joe Nathan got 4/47, and Francisco Cordero signed for 4/46, both prior to the 2008 season. I think these, along with Papelbon, B.J. Ryan, and Billy Wagner mentioned above, are the only 4+ year deals for relievers.

   20. gehrig97 Posted: February 09, 2014 at 11:44 AM (#4653817)
I I recall, Mo signed for 3/45 at the age of 38. And then produced three "Mo" seasons.
   21. greenback calls it soccer Posted: February 09, 2014 at 12:07 PM (#4653823)
Isringhausen originally signed a 4-year deal with the Cardinals.

Sutter signed a 6-year deal with the Braves (I think), and he still gets a check from either the Braves or maybe an insurance company. The mid-1980s were a good time for a lender to lock in an interest rate.
   22. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 09, 2014 at 12:29 PM (#4653829)
So the only relief pitcher in the "closer era" to sign more than a 4-year contract was B.J. Ryan. Pretty ridiculous.
   23. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 09, 2014 at 01:57 PM (#4653874)
Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball.

Craig Kimbrel is fast becoming too expensive for the mid-market Braves.

If he wins arb, they may flip him this year. If they win arb, they won't flip him until next year.

We can start with Rougned Odor or the like. We could use a 3b prospect.

The Braves have more than three budding superstars. They're not choosing between Freeman/Heyward or Kimbrel. They're choosing between Teheran/Minor/Andrelton Simmons and Kimbrel. You rightly let the 60 innings guy walk and sign the starters.
   24. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: February 09, 2014 at 02:16 PM (#4653880)
I think the Reds gave Francisco Cordero 4/$46M.
   25. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 09, 2014 at 04:49 PM (#4653923)
Craig Kimbrel is fast becoming too expensive for the mid-market Braves.

Assuming Bud doesn't pocket it all as part of his farewell tour, every team in the league gets $25M more this year due to increased national TV money.
   26. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 09, 2014 at 05:29 PM (#4653932)
More evidence of why k/9 is a poor stat. Kimbrel is the only pitcher in history(with more than 6ip) with over 50% of the batters faced struck out, yet his season is 29th in k/9.

The 29th-best K/9 rate was for 2013. Kimbrel struck out 50% of batters faced in 2012.
   27. puck Posted: February 09, 2014 at 06:08 PM (#4653946)
We can start with Rougned Odor or the like


Wow, that's a real name. I see a lot of headline puns coming.
   28. Nasty Nate Posted: February 09, 2014 at 06:16 PM (#4653949)
In a perfect world, the Braves would extend each of their three budding superstars. But we don’t live in a perfect world, which meant Atlanta essentially had to decide whether Heyward or Kimbrel was more valuable for the organization moving forward... With three consecutive 40-plus save seasons and a 1.48 ERA that ranks best among pitchers with 200 innings since 2011, one could certainly make the argument that Kimbrel deserved to get paid


This doesn't really make sense. They didn't trade either Heyward or Kimbrel, and both willing be getting paid by the Braves until that happens (or free agency).

Also, teams don't just get to decide to 'extend' players anyway. The can decide to try.
   29. Walt Davis Posted: February 09, 2014 at 10:19 PM (#4653996)
Also Heyward wasn't an extension, they just bought out his last two arb years.

It might well be the Braves could only afford two of the three but if they wanted to extend two of the three, you'd think they'd have extended Kimbrel after not extending Heyward.

The simplest explanation is that the Braves are comfy going year-to-year with Kimbrel, possibly trading him before he hits FA, and the Freeman/Heyward decisions don't play a role in the Kimbrel decision.

The Braves should contend this year but, if not, imagine how much Kimbrel might bring at the deadline -- add the best closer for the stretch run and you have him for 2 more years? Teams would be salivating.
   30. chisoxcollector Posted: February 10, 2014 at 12:13 AM (#4654030)
Hoffman signed a 4/32 deal in 2000, and Rivera signed for 4/40 in 2001, or so says Wikipedia. Joe Nathan got 4/47, and Francisco Cordero signed for 4/46, both prior to the 2008 season. I think these, along with Papelbon, B.J. Ryan, and Billy Wagner mentioned above, are the only 4+ year deals for relievers.


Don't forget about the contract that the immortal Scott Linebrink signed with the White Sox. 4 years, $19 million. Possibly the most head scratching deal ever given to a reliever.
   31. Dan Posted: February 10, 2014 at 06:17 AM (#4654073)
I might do it if he'd agree to a sufficiently low AAV. Given what top closers (Mo, Papelbon) have been paid and Kimbrel's success, I could see the arbitrator putting him into the special category and his 3 arb years will probably cost the Braves something like $30 M anyway (6/10/14) and they might well trade him after this year. I suppose if I were the Braves, I'd seriously consider 3/$25 (and obviously lower).


Kimbrel's agent would laugh Wren out of the room if he pushed a 3/$25M offer across the negotiating table. They're seeking around $9M for his FIRST arbitration year salary. Even if he LOSES in arbitration he'll be making over $6M, and then stands to make around the 6/10/14 you proposed. Why would he hand back 1/6 of that? And if he WINS, then he's probably looking at 9/12/15 at minimum (~3/36M). I wouldn't bet against him either, his stats are just off the charts, even for someone who doesn't look at advanced statistics at all. It's pretty easy to make the case that he's better than even the highest paid comps (guys like Papelbon and KRod).
   32. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 10, 2014 at 03:21 PM (#4654359)
The Braves have more than three budding superstars. They're not choosing between Freeman/Heyward or Kimbrel. They're choosing between Teheran/Minor/Andrelton Simmons and Kimbrel. You rightly let the 60 innings guy walk and sign the starters.


Kimbrels a lot more valuable than any of them on a per inning basis, ever hear of leverage?

You give Kimbrel the security of 4 or 5 years and then try to turn him into an 90 inning fireman.
   33. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 10, 2014 at 03:28 PM (#4654372)
The simplest explanation is that the Braves are comfy going year-to-year with Kimbrel, possibly trading him before he hits FA, and the Freeman/Heyward decisions don't play a role in the Kimbrel decision.


Kimbrel is already aged and expensed beyond the Braves apparent strategy, which is to buy out pre-arb, arb and the first few years of free agency at current market costs while letting another team pay for the 30+ decline phase of the players they develop. Call it the "Brian McCann strategy." Now the 'Freddie Freeman.' They will try to do the same thing with Teheran, Simmons and Minor, probably in that order. Medlen and Kimbrel are not really options for that process.

Kimbrels a lot more valuable than any of them on a per inning basis, ever hear of leverage?


I have. I think it's mostly over-sold stathead bullshit. You don't dump a quarter of your annual player budget into a guy that pitches 60 innings, even if they're "high leverage." If you don't have players to get you there with a lead, he's useless to you.

You give Kimbrel the security of 4 or 5 years and then try to turn him into an 90 inning fireman.


Have you ever seen Craig Kimbrel? Have you seen his body, his mechanics and his throwing style? You throw him 90 innings he'd break like a twig.
   34. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 10, 2014 at 04:05 PM (#4654395)
Kimbrels a lot more valuable than any of them on a per inning basis, ever hear of leverage?

But, he's actually not that much valuable than any other good closer. Striking out the side in order isn't any more valuable than giving up a couple of baserunners, and still allowing no runs.

What Kimbrel is doing is impressive as hell, but I don't think it's worth any more than I'd pay any other good closer.
   35. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 10, 2014 at 04:13 PM (#4654396)
What Kimbrel is doing is impressive as hell, but I don't think it's worth any more than I'd pay any other good closer.


Yeah. It's the difference between Jenna Jameson and Jenna Haze. Mostly style and aesthetics, but it's all hardcore at the end of the day. The Braves can replace 90% of Kimbrel's production come 2015 with some combination of David Carpenter, Jonny Venters and Ryan Butcher.
   36. Nasty Nate Posted: February 10, 2014 at 04:16 PM (#4654398)

But, he's actually not that much valuable than any other good closer. Striking out the side in order isn't any more valuable than giving up a couple of baserunners, and still allowing no runs.

What Kimbrel is doing is impressive as hell, but I don't think it's worth any more than I'd pay any other good closer.


He's letting up fewer runs too (career 1.39 ERA), it's not just the K's.
   37. The Good Face Posted: February 10, 2014 at 04:21 PM (#4654401)
Yeah. It's the difference between Jenna Jameson and Jenna Haze. Mostly style and aesthetics, but it's all hardcore at the end of the day. The Braves can replace 90% of Kimbrel's production come 2015 with some combination of David Carpenter, Jonny Venters and Ryan Butcher.


Which is why you're crazy for thinking the Rangers would part with Odor for a soon-to-be expensive closer. Kimbrel's oustanding, but almost every team has a guy who can give them at least 85% of what he'd give you. They just don't always know who that guy is.
   38. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 10, 2014 at 04:23 PM (#4654403)
Which is why you're crazy for thinking the Rangers would part with Odor for a soon-to-be expensive closer.


If the Royals would ship Wil Myers out for James Sheild, somewhere there's a front office that will overvalue Kimbrel.
   39. The Good Face Posted: February 10, 2014 at 04:28 PM (#4654404)
If the Royals would ship Wil Myers out for James Sheild, somewhere there's a front office that will overvalue Kimbrel.


The Phillies are thataway.
   40. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 10, 2014 at 05:10 PM (#4654424)
He's letting up fewer runs too (career 1.39 ERA), it's not just the K's.

I understand that. But there's a declining utility to that as a closer. You can only close the game. Allowing one run when you have a 2 run lead costs you nothing.

The difference between him and a regular good closer is going to be what? 1 or 2 blown saves? If he keeps this performance up, and doesn't get hurt..

The risk/reward tradeoff to giving him a big contract is all risk.

The difference between a $12-15M closer and a $2-3M closer is nowhere near 2 WAR.
   41. Nasty Nate Posted: February 10, 2014 at 05:48 PM (#4654451)
I understand that. But there's a declining utility to that as a closer. You can only close the game. Allowing one run when you have a 2 run lead costs you nothing.


I understand (although I will point out that while all converted saves help the team equally, all blown saves do not hurt the team equally). I think I was taking you too literally when you said "What Kimbrel is doing is impressive as hell, but I don't think it's worth any more than I'd pay any other good closer."

The difference between a $12-15M closer and a $2-3M closer is nowhere near 2 WAR.


True, but the difference between '12-'13 Kimbrel and a $2-3M closer (Hawkins, Frasor, Perez, K-Rod, etc.) IS 2 WAR, or close to it, in terms of individual WARs.
   42. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 10, 2014 at 05:57 PM (#4654454)
True, but the difference between '12-'13 Kimbrel and a $2-3M closer (Hawkins, Frasor, Perez, K-Rod, etc.) IS 2 WAR, or close to it, in terms of individual WARs.

Yes, but you're not getting the last 2 years of Kimbrel, you're getting the next 4-5. And there are a lot better $2-3M closers than those guys. The Braves can simply slot Carpenter into Kimbrel's spot.
   43. Nasty Nate Posted: February 10, 2014 at 06:16 PM (#4654462)
Yes, but you're not getting the last 2 years of Kimbrel, you're getting the next 4-5.

Yes, I agree.
And there are a lot better $2-3M closers than those guys.

Not at 'retail' prices, which I thought was the framework. Otherwise, Kimbrel was a $700,000 closer last year.
   44. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 10, 2014 at 06:22 PM (#4654465)
Not at 'retail' prices, which I thought was the framework. Otherwise, Kimbrel was a $700,000 closer last year.


The point is that no smart club should ever pay "retail" for a 60 innings pitcher. Period. Not unless you have an unlimited budget.
   45. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 10, 2014 at 06:24 PM (#4654467)
Not at 'retail' prices, which I thought was the framework. Otherwise, Kimbrel was a $700,000 closer last year.

OK, I didn't mean sign a FA to replace Kimbrel. I meant shifting somebody else into his job, and filling the lower leverage innings with a couple of signings.

If you need to pay retail, you can still get someone like Balfour for 2/12, rather than spending 4/60 or 5/70 on Kimbrel (he ain't getting less than Papelbon).
   46. Nasty Nate Posted: February 10, 2014 at 06:33 PM (#4654472)
The point is that no smart club should ever pay "retail" for a 60 innings pitcher. Period.


Well, replace "pitcher" with "closer."

FA deals for short relievers can make sense (and pretty much every single team makes them).
   47. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 10, 2014 at 06:56 PM (#4654484)

FA deals for short relievers can make sense (and pretty much every single team makes them).


Agree, but you've got to keep then to 3 years or preferably less. The volatility of RPs is just too damn high.
   48. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 10, 2014 at 08:58 PM (#4654529)
I have. I think it's mostly over-sold stathead ########. You don't dump a quarter of your annual player budget into a guy that pitches 60 innings, even if they're "high leverage." If you don't have players to get you there with a lead, he's useless to you.


It's stat-head BS that the quality of the pitcher you bring in during a jam has a significant influence on the outcome? So if the bases are loaded with 2 outs while you have a 1 run lead late in a game, any old reliever will do as well as a strike out machine that doesn't walk many and rarely gives up hits, let alone home runs?

Have you ever seen Craig Kimbrel? Have you seen his body, his mechanics and his throwing style? You throw him 90 innings he'd break like a twig.


So 77 IP is fine for him, but 13 more innings and he'll "break like a twig". What are you smoking and can I have some? Seriously, normally you are much smarter than this and I'm not, you can tell by the logical and rational nature of what I'm saying here that I'm pretty dry right now.

I think Kimbrel is being misused, or at least under-utilized in the dumb "closer" role. More than 60% of PAs vs. him are with bases empty, more than half with a 2 run or greater lead. Last year he only had one appearance before the 9th inning.

Give him a good long term deal in exchange for freeing him and the team from the handcuffs dictated by the closer herd mentality rules. Start bringing him in the 8th, the 7th, even the 6th if that's when your highest leverage situations occur. That change alone increases his value significantly, making him worth a 5 year $50m deal for a $100m+ payroll team, especially considering that a third of your team is available at minimum wage.

And when he gets out of the jam quickly, consider letting him pitch the next inning too. The stress of pitching 1&1/2 innings is not much more than an inning, and the recovery time needed shouldn't be any greater. If that safely gets another 20 innings a year out of him, it's an even better deal.

Craig Kimbrell is the most dominant pitcher in baseball, maybe ever, and he's only 25. Treating him like a fungible closer is shortsighted and wasteful. Especially if it involves letting him walk. The best starters are worth over $10m per 70 innings pitched, why isn't 70 innings pitched at a much higher level in much more valuable situations not worth at least $10m?

If none of this plan can be done because he won't even consider it, sure trade him to a sucker for a big haul. But without a big offer in hand, don't just let him slide into the upper tiers of arbitration without attempting to unlock the maximum value he can give you. No reason not to move him out of closer role for this season either way.

   49. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 10, 2014 at 09:38 PM (#4654544)
It's stat-head BS that the quality of the pitcher you bring in during a jam has a significant influence on the outcome? So if the bases are loaded with 2 outs while you have a 1 run lead late in a game, any old reliever will do as well as a strike out machine that doesn't walk many and rarely gives up hits, let alone home runs?


No. It's stathead BS that outs in the ninth inning are more important than outs in the third inning. Of course you want your best pitcher in when the bases are loaded and the game's on the line. That rarely happens in the ninth inning, when closers are used. If you don't have a starting staff that gets you to the 8th and 9th, your "high leverage relievers" are so much popcorn and candied peanuts.

So 77 IP is fine for him, but 13 more innings and he'll "break like a twig".


I think 77 IP, repeated year after year, will break him. Craig Kimbrel is a tiny little guy with a really weird motion that throws 70000 MPH. He's an arm injury begging to happen.

Look, I think Kimbrel is the best reliever in baseball. Easily. I would prefer to keep him on my team in a perfect world. It's better to have the really great guys than not. But there's a budgetary decision to be made, and if it comes down to Andrelton Simmons, who makes *every pitcher on the roster better every game he plays*, or Julio Teheran who *pitches 7 innings ever start*, vs a shut down 60 inning reliever, the smart move is to let the reliever walk. You don't dump limited funds into a reliever when you grow those on trees the way the Braves tend to do.

(Calling Kimbrel the most dominant pitcher ever is just ludicrous. He's a friggin' short reliever. There is no such thing as short reliever who is the "most dominant pitcher ever." Relief pitchers are fungible. Even the really great ones.)

(ALSO, if you've ever seen Kimbrel pitch the second of a two inning stint, you'll know that he's simply not the same pitcher the second time out there.)
   50. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: February 10, 2014 at 09:55 PM (#4654548)
Craig Kimbrell is the most dominant pitcher in baseball, maybe ever, and he's only 25. Treating him like a fungible closer is shortsighted and wasteful.

Treating him like that is why he is the most dominant pitcher in baseball. There is a pretty clear correlation between relievers rarely going more than one IP these days and routinely putting up sub-2.00 ERAs with over a strikeout per IP.
   51. Colin Posted: February 10, 2014 at 10:22 PM (#4654554)
So 77 IP is fine for him, but 13 more innings and he'll "break like a twig".


Well, it's not clear that 77 IP was actually "fine" for him. That was his workload in 2011, and he broke down in September, blowing three games down the stretch as he had the worst month of his career. Fredi Gonzalez reduced Kimbrel's workload in 2012 and 2013 because of what happened in 2011 with him and with Venters, who pitched 88 innings in 2011 and wilted down the stretch. Kimbrel's been a lot better since that month, though he was a little more hittable in September of this year than he was the rest of the year.

(Kimbrel pitched 75 innings between AAA and the majors in 2010, but it' shard to read that, because that was still when his control was all over the place - he was effective the last month of that season, though he did walk 16 in 20 innings in the majors)

It's not clear the extent to which these data mean anything other than fluke, though Kimbrel definitely looked worn out down the stretch in 2011. The smaple sizes are very small. But, this is the experience Fredi has with relievers - ride them hard, they'll let you down in September.

Give him a good long term deal in exchange for freeing him and the team from the handcuffs dictated by the closer herd mentality rules. Start bringing him in the 8th, the 7th, even the 6th if that's when your highest leverage situations occur.


Look, I agree with you in principle, that relievers are underutilized, and that managers mistake saves for leverage. But, the Braves are not going to suddenly revolutionize reliever usage, certainly not as long as Fredi Gonzalez is manager. They're not going to pay a boatload of cash to a guy so they can start experimenting with him, and probably neither is any other major league team.
   52. Colin Posted: February 10, 2014 at 10:32 PM (#4654559)
As a related question, why exactly did the Yankees scale back Mariano Rivera's workload from 130 innings in 1995 to 71 the next year? I mean, I know that he took over The Closer Role from Wetteland, but did they not think they could get more than 70 or so innings anymore? Similar to the drop for Eck from 1987 to 88.
   53. alilisd Posted: February 10, 2014 at 11:39 PM (#4654575)
His 2012 was great. But was it really any better than Rodney's or Eckersley's 600+ ERA+ seasons? Or Gagne's big year at a similar ERA+ and 20 more IP? Heck, even Joe Table had a pretty comparable year.
   54. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 11, 2014 at 12:06 AM (#4654582)
Look, I agree with you in principle, that relievers are underutilized, and that managers mistake saves for leverage. But, the Braves are not going to suddenly revolutionize reliever usage, certainly not as long as Fredi Gonzalez is manager. They're not going to pay a boatload of cash to a guy so they can start experimenting with him, and probably neither is any other


This is a valid point, as are everyone's comments on his usage/fragility.

I just like thinking in a vacuum, esp. when I'm out of weed.

If someday someone makes a real attempt to fully utilize a top reliever I think it's going to require a long term deal, so the pitcher doesn't obsess over losing their "saves" and how it will affect their career.
   55. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 11, 2014 at 01:13 PM (#4654830)
His 2012 was great. But was it really any better than Rodney's or Eckersley's 600+ ERA+ seasons? Or Gagne's big year at a similar ERA+ and 20 more IP? Heck, even Joe Table had a pretty comparable year.


Pitcher Year IP/WHIP K/9 HR/9 BB/

Eckersley 
(199073.1/0.614 9.0/0.2/0.5
Gagne 
(200382.1/0.692 15.0/0.2/2.2
Kimbrell 
(201262.2/0.654  16.7/0.4/2.0
Rodney 
(201266.2/0.777 9.2/0.2/1.8
Mesa 
(199564.1/1.031 8.2/0.4/2.4 


Clearly Eckersley's season was best, Gagne had similar rates to Kimbrell but the value of 20 more innings surely trumps him. Rodney isn't really that close, gave up more hits, didn't K as many people (even though he had more opportunities to each inning). Mesa far behind with that laughable 1.031 WHIP.

Pitcher Best 3 consecutive seasons IP/WHIP K/9 HR/9 BB/

Eckersley  203
/0.702 8.7/0.5/0.8
Gagne 247
/0.822 13.3/0.5/2.1
Kimbrell 206
/0.871  14.9/0.4/2.9 


So, no, not most dominant ever. But certainly most dominant in last decade.
   56. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 11, 2014 at 01:47 PM (#4654857)
My friend who loves Kimbrel wanted to remind me that Craig could have saved 10 games with no fielders last year. If dominant was simply K rate he'd be it.

My friend has won a lot of money with following bet. Braves game on screen in casino, Kimbrel brought in for save. He'll pay you even money if Craig doesn't get a strikeout, if you pay him even money when Craig Ks two batters, and 3-2 when he Ks three.
   57. alilisd Posted: February 11, 2014 at 04:13 PM (#4654997)
Rodney isn't really that close, gave up more hits, didn't K as many people (even though he had more opportunities to each inning). Mesa far behind with that laughable 1.031 WHIP.


Well, Mesa was pitching in the AL in 1995, a bit different offensive environment. His ERA+ was 418 to Kimbrell's 399, and has an edge in WAR 3.9 to 3.3. Rodney's ERA+ was 641(!) and he also had 3.8 WAR, plus 12 more IP. Sure, Kimbrell's K's make him stand out, but other measures of performance are less clearly in his favor.
   58. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 11, 2014 at 07:32 PM (#4655150)
If we are talking dominance, I never referred to single year dominance, over multiple year periods Rodney has never been dominant over anything other than a buffet line.

But even in 2012, 21.9% of batters vs. Rodney reached base, while only 18.6% of batters reached base vs. Kimbrell. Doesn't seem like a big difference but it is. It means...

In that year Kimbrell gave up 6.2 baserunners per 9 innings, Rodney gave up 7.6 baserunners per 9 innings. 1.5 more baserunners per game is significant.

But most importantly, Kimbrell struck out 50% of batters faced (16.7/33.2), Rodney struck out 27% of batters faced (9.2/34.6).

Rodney's defense made almost 75% of his outs for him (I hope Rodney thanked Tampas stats guys for those advanced shifts), Kimbrell didn't even need his defense half the time.

Don't be fooled by misleading rate stats, It's not even close, Kimbrel was far more dominant.

And as far as Mesa goes, ERA and ERA+ are meaningless in general for relievers since coming in with bases full and giving up a bases clearing double costs the reliever zero earned runs. But again, his k rate and ability to jeep runners off bases were no where near close to Kimbrel, and all the league/era adjustments in the world ain't closing that gap.
   59. alilisd Posted: February 11, 2014 at 09:42 PM (#4655209)
No, I'm not"talking dominance." I replied to the assertion that Kimbrell's 2012 had a case for the best modern closer single season. See post 2. That is all I was addressing.

Your idea that rate stats would be misleading is interesting, though I think it would not have much impact when discussing modern closers as they rarely enter with runners on. In the case of these two, Mesa had 12 inherited and allowed 3 to score, Kimbrell just 4, but none scored. For Rodney, Eck, and Gagne it was 18-2, 29-4, and 10-0.
   60. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 12, 2014 at 02:19 AM (#4655295)
Your idea that rate stats would be misleading is interesting, though I think it would not have much impact when discussing modern closers as they rarely enter with runners on. In the case of these two, Mesa had 12 inherited and allowed 3 to score, Kimbrell just 4, but none scored. For Rodney, Eck, and Gagne it was 18-2, 29-4, and 10-0.


Thanks for doing the leg work, this is interesting. I shouldn't have said ERA/ERA+ are meaningless for relievers, what I really meant is that inherited runners scoring isn't factored int o them and are hard to factor in, which makes them less useful/accurate, so I trust their peripherals more.

In the case of Joe Table, in that gaudy 418 ERA+ year he was only debited for giving up 8 earned runs, but counting inherited runners he actually gave up 11 so is his 418 ERA+ really "only" a 300ish ERA+?

But wait, he wasn't the guy who put those batters on base, so should he really be punished for all 3 runs? Or none of them?

I guess the answer is no and no and no and the correct answer is I don't know.
   61. Brian White Posted: February 12, 2014 at 07:20 AM (#4655310)
In the case of Joe Table, in that gaudy 418 ERA+ year he was only debited for giving up 8 earned runs, but counting inherited runners he actually gave up 11 so is his 418 ERA+ really "only" a 300ish ERA+?

But wait, he wasn't the guy who put those batters on base, so should he really be punished for all 3 runs? Or none of them?

I guess the answer is no and no and no and the correct answer is I don't know.


RE24 is probably the way to answer this. Each pitchers' best relief season, by RE24:

Kimbrel - 22.7
Mesa - 26.9
Eck - 27.7
Gagne - 25.7
Rodney - 28.1

Kimbrel scoring the lowest here reflects the fact that Fredi Gonzalez just doesn't bring him on in the middle of an inning but once every blue moon.
   62. alilisd Posted: February 12, 2014 at 07:27 PM (#4655907)
Thanks for doing the leg work, this is interesting.


Cheers. It is interesting.
   63. alilisd Posted: February 12, 2014 at 07:32 PM (#4655908)
Kimbrel scoring the lowest here reflects the fact that Fredi Gonzalez just doesn't bring him on in the middle of an inning but once every blue moon.


This certainly seemed to be the case after looking at him only having 4 inherited runners in 2012.

Thanks for adding this (RE24) to the discussion.
   64. alilisd Posted: February 12, 2014 at 07:49 PM (#4655916)
In the case of Joe Table, in that gaudy 418 ERA+ year he was only debited for giving up 8 earned runs, but counting inherited runners he actually gave up 11 so is his 418 ERA+ really "only" a 300ish ERA+?


Meant to add Mesa having allowed 3 of his 12 inherited runners to score does certainly bring down the quality of his season. Would be interesting to know how much defense helped Rodney, too. I looked at BABIP and his was 25 points lower than Kimbrell's, .225 to .250, so it certainly seems like he received some benefit. Still, it's so much more rare for guys to put the ball in play against him, I'd imagine those 25 points are pretty negligible in terms of Kimbrell's performance.

At any rate, I just hope he stays healthy and we get to watch him doing more incredible things on the mound for many years to come.
   65. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: February 16, 2014 at 10:58 AM (#4657574)
Braves agree to 4 year extension w Kimbrel, w an option for '18.
I am surprised.
Guaranteed 4/42, value up to 5/58.
   66. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 16, 2014 at 11:11 AM (#4657579)
That's not an outrageous deal in today's money. I hope it doesn't get in the way of a Simmons and Minor extension.
   67. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 16, 2014 at 11:17 AM (#4657580)
4/42 guaranteed.
13 mil team option for 2018.
3.5 mil in potential bonus targets.
   68. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 16, 2014 at 11:17 AM (#4657582)
The Braves' entire strategy is to make sure every current Brave who might still be good when their new stadium opens is still on the team when the new stadium opens, right?
   69. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 16, 2014 at 11:29 AM (#4657589)
Yes. The Braves are locking in everyone they can to make sure that when they open White Flight Field, all those AJC reading fans up in Marietta and Roswell/Alpharetta know the names of the players on the team. The only extension announced this spring that doesn't take the player directly into the new stadium open is the Heyward deal, which runs through 2015. (2017 is the first year in WFF.) What they will do there is make a decision on Heyward or JUpton, who is also up for free agency in 2016. One of them will be extended into the new stadium I suspect.
   70. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 16, 2014 at 11:33 AM (#4657591)
Did that really happen?

I was ready to spend the next two years doomed to the knowledge that Kimbrel would become a free agent, the Phillies would sign him to a $52 million contract, and the Braves would get indistinguishable performance from their new bargain free agent Jonathan Papelbon.
   71. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 16, 2014 at 12:01 PM (#4657603)
Personally I think I'd have rather gone year to year on Kimbrel, though the team option is nice (what's the buyout, though?) But the Braves put themselves in a bad spot by filing too low of an arbitration bid; Kimbrel was probably going to win arbitration at $9 million for Year One. Given that, the contract makes sense for both sides. Kimbrel gets $42 million guaranteed, which a pitcher should always take if he can get it, and if he doesn't burn out the Braves will get the fourth year extremely cheap (three years of arbitration would add up to about $35 million) and a fifth year at a bargain price if they want it.

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