• Exclusives

    Kimbrel on the verge of ANOTHER big league record

    By Kent Covington

    On August 31, 2011, Atlanta Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel, chiseled his name into the history books when struck out Washington’s Michael Morse on a 100-mph heater to set a new rookie saves record (41).  What must it have felt like for the rookie to not only break the saves record before September 1,  but to then get a phone call from the Hall of Fame?  “Hall” officials asked him to donate the spikes he wore during his record-breaking performance, and of  course, he gladly granted their request.

    Now, just a week after shipping his shoes to Cooperstown, Kimbrel may once again be on the verge of making history.

    Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel

    Turn back the clock to June 11th of this year.  The Braves were playing the second game of a 4-game set at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Kimbrel was called upon in a non-save situation to pitch the bottom of the 10th inning after the Braves had taken a 6-2 lead.  Astros outfielder,  Carlos Lee, hooked a Kimbrel offering into the left field corner, doubling home Hunter Pence.

    That would be the last time anyone would score on Craig Kimbrel for at least 12 weeks.

    Kimbrel has now pitched a remarkable 37 and 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.  He’s got to be zeroing in on some sort of record with a streak like that, right?  Indeed he is.

    The record for most consecutive scoreless innings in relief is 39.  It was set by Cleveland Indians relief pitcher, Al Benton, in 1949 and tied by Oakland reliever, Brad Ziegler, in 2008.

    If Kimbrel can record another 1 and 2/3 innings without yielding a run, he will break the second noteworthy Major League record of his extraordinary rookie season.

    Just as impressive as his streak of 113 scoreless outs is the manner in which he’s recorded them.  It could be argued that there has never been a 12-week stretch of dominance like this by a reliever in the history of the game.  In fact, I can’t imagine how anyone could argue otherwise.  Have a peek at these numbers:

    Inn R H BB SO
    36.2 0 8 8 64

    For comparison, over the first 37 innings of Ziegler’s scoreless innings streak in ’08, Zielgler allowed 20 hits and 11 walks, while striking out 17 batters.

    Kimbrel is, by all accounts, a down to earth, mild mannered kid.  Ironic, given that everything he accomplishes on the field is punctuated with such flair.  It’s not enough to break the rookie saves record… he breaks it with a month left in the season.  It’s not enough to shut hitters down for 37+ straight innings… he has to make them look bad in the process.

    Even if Kimbrel fails to pass Benton and Ziegler in the record books this month, it matters not.  This will still be the single greatest season ever turned in by a rookie reliever, and it will almost certainly be recognized with NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    Will the Braves closer break a second MLB record in the span of 2 weeks?  We’ll have to wait and see.  Either way, enjoy what’s left of this kid’s first big league campaign.  Because it’s safe to say,  Kimbrel’s epic rookie season is history in the making.