Dan's Dugout: Kimbrel Chases K-Rod's Record • Latino Sports

Baseball

Dan’s Dugout: Kimbrel Chases K-Rod’s Record

on

Slowly but surely, Craig Kimbrel is having a historic season.

Now in his second season with the Boston Red Sox, the 6-foot, 210-pound righthander is racking up numbers that suggest a serious challenge to the record 62-save season of Francisco Rodriguez.

Craig Kimbrel is giving the Bosox airtight relief

Craig Kimbrel is giving the Bosox airtight relief

Entering play Saturday, Kimbrel had a 0.98 earned run average, 18 saves, 55 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings, and a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 0.49. That’s Cy Young territory, folks, and projects to MVP consideration too.

Sometimes described as a righthanded version of Hall of Fame contender Billy Wagner, Kimbrel has more saves than anyone since breaking in with the Atlanta Braves in 2011. He also owns a 1.80 career earned run average that ranks as the best of all time. Even Mariano Rivera, a first-ballot lock in 2019, couldn’t match it (the great Panamanian closer had a 2.06 mark).

Perched like a vulture with wings outspread, Kimbrel intimidates opposing hitters before they get a whiff of his fearsome fastball. During his five-year stint with the Braves, his ERA was a ridiculous 1.43.

In fact, he presented Cy Young and MVP credentials in the National League long before he became a pipedream in Red Sox Nation.

In 2013, he had four wins, a career-best 50 saves, and 98 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched. Because relievers rarely get the recognition they deserve, Kimbrel was merely a contender, but not a winner, for postseason honors. But he did help the Braves reach their last postseason before management decided to rebuild a moribund farm system by trading veterans.

Kimbrel went to San Diego on the eve of the 2015 opener, then moved on to Boston a year later in a five-player November trade.

It's another happy ending for Bosox closer Craig Kimbrel

It’s another happy ending for bearded Bosox closer Craig Kimbrel.

It took a year to adjust to the American League – his ERA was a career-worst 3.40 in his first Red Sox summer – but the hard-throwing closer made the necessary adjustments.

Now better than ever, he’s not only on track for his seventh All-Star selection but also the single-season saves record.

That would be the 62-save summer that earned Frankie Rodriguez the nickname K-Rod in 2008.

Now hanging on with the Detroit Tigers, where he’s struggling mightily at age 35, Rodriguez relies on his memory when he wants to smile.

Working for the Angels in Crazy ‘08, K-Rod saved 62 games in 69 chances, an 89.9 per cent success rate, and fanned 77 in 68 1/3 innings. No one has come close to posting that many saves in a single season but Kimbrel, backed by a powerful Boston ballclub, has a real chance.

Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez in happier days with the Angels

Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez in happier days with the Angels

He also has a shot at Cooperstown, where relievers remain a rare breed. Kimbrel could reach 300 saves this year and could easily double that total before he retires. Only his health has to cooperate.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe the Huntsville native was just a 13th-round draft choice. How many teams passed on him and how many times? It boggles the mind.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Even though Great American Ballpark is a bandbox at best, nothing explains the power surge in baseball more than the four-homer game by Reds utilityman Scooter Gennett, who previously had 38 home runs in 502 games . . .

Speaking of surprises, Ervin Santana’s All-Star trek continues in Minnesota, where he leads the majors with three complete games and even has a base-clearing double this season . . .

Ex-Met Justin Turner, who became a slugger after arriving in Los Angeles, homered in his first at-bat after a disabled list stint caused by a balky hamstring . . .

Justin Turner provides power from third base

Justin Turner provides power from third base

Tampa Bay’s troubles got worst when slick-fielding centerfielder Kevin Kiermeier suffered a fractured hip that will keep him out for at least two months . . .

The attack of the New York Mets should improve with the return of Yoenis Cespedes, out since April 28 with leg issues, but the bullpen remains a blemish (13 runs in its last 13 innings) . . .

Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has reached base in each of his team’s 32 home games this season . . .

Veteran lefthander CC Sabathia, written off by many pundits, has played a major role in the Yankees’ ability to rule the American League East so far . . .

Erstwhile Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda notched a save in his first relief appearance . . .

Atlanta is trying to figure out how to keep Matt Adams in the lineup when Freddie Freeman returns from a fractured wrist next month . . .

San Francisco has been blanked in three of its last seven home games . . .

Houston ace Dallas Keuchel hopes for his second Cy Young trophy in three seasons

Houston ace Dallas Keuchel hopes for his second Cy Young trophy in three seasons

Dallas Keuchel and his 10-0 record are sitting on the Houston disabled list for the second time thanks to neck discomfort . . .

Seattle went against team policy in extending the contract of star shortstop Jean Segura, who insisted on a no-trade clause after enduring three previous deals . .

Philadelphia set-up man Pat Neshek, one of few Phils thriving in a terrible season, expects to be traded before the July 31 deadline . . .

MLB is investigating allegations against Derek Norris and Addison Russell, the latest major-leaguers accused of domestic violence.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

Recommended for you