Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Greatness of Craig Kimbrel

I often equate closers in baseball to kickers in football. In terms of fantasy value, they are interchangeable, volatile and are statistically comparable. There is no reason to overpay or chase after them in any format.  One guy has put himself head and shoulders above the rest of his peers and shown he is more than just a save opportunity. And that man is Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves.

Over the last two years as the Braves closer he has posted 89 saves, an ERA under 1.50 and struck out 243 batters in just 139 innings pitched. That is not your typical closer production. In fantasy terms, Kimbrel is as valuable as a starting pitcher and actually more valuable production wise than 2/3 of the starters available in this years draft.
When we measure Kimbrel's RPV (Relative Position Value/this is a stat created in the Fantasy Baseball Black Book that measures position scarcity) Kimbrel is in a league of his own posting a whopping +27% RPV. The next best reliever is at just +2%. The next 10 are all withing a 10% range of that as they slip into the negative after the first 5 closers. RPV is the equivalent of WAR in fantasy baseball, without the defensive metrics weighing in.

Here is an excerpt from the 2013 Fantasy Baseball Black Book on Kimbrel:
Craig Kimbrel ATL Just when you thought he couldn’t get any better, Kimbrel increased his K/9 rate from 14.8 to 16.7, and perhaps more impressively cut his walk rate by nearly half from 3.7 to 2.0. He is far and away the best closer in the game. In points leagues, he offers front line starter- like production based on his saves and strikeout totals. His ERA (1.04 in ’12) and WHIP (0.56) are probably tough to repeat, but in roto formats he goes far beyond other closers in providing great stats in every category. Oh yeah, did I mention he is just 25? Here is the only stat you need to remember: Last year, Kimbrel struck out over 50% of all batters he faced (116K’s and 231 batters faced). Not retired mind you, STRUCK OUT! Take a minute and read that again. Yup. Unreal. And by the way he walked just 14 guys while doing it. The best there is by a country mile.

     When you consider there was a 45% turnover rate of closers in 2012, it is always a wise strategy to wait as long as you can for saves. They will always turn up on the waiver wire. Injuries, trades and performance all create new closers on a monthly basis. It is just a matter of paying attention and following these situations closely in your league. No one is more anti-closer than I am, but Kimbrel is special and deserves attention far greater than your run of the mill 9th inning guy.

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