Is Craig Kimbrel The Next Mariano Rivera?

Jul 15, 2013; Flushing, NY, USA; National League pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) of the Atlanta Braves looks on during the Home Run Derby in advance of the 2013 All Star Game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

With Mariano Rivera set to retire at the end of the year, Craig Kimbrel is going to be the undeniable No. 1 closer in baseball for 2014. He’s arguably the best closer in the game even with Mo still hanging around, but does Craig have the potential to become just as good, if not better, than Rivera has been over his entire career?

According to Mark Bowman, in his first three years (which of course doesn’t say everything about his career going forward), he’s actually performed better than what the legendary Yankee closer did in the same time period:

Given he is less than three full seasons into his career, it seems somewhat sacrilegious to even attempt to put Kimbrel in Rivera’s category. But it at least seems worth noting that the Braves closer is currently on a pace that puts him ahead of where Rivera was at the same point of his career.

Kimbrel has compiled a 1.47 ERA while converting 115 saves with a 89.1 percent success rate through the first 199 appearances of his career.

Rivera’s career path was slightly different given the fact that he made 10 starts before being exclusively used as a reliever. But through the first 199 relief appearances of his career, Rivera had compiled a 2.16 ERA and converted 89 saves at an 82.4 percent success rate.

While watching the All-Star game, I was blown away by some of the numbers that Rivera put up in previous All-Star games, as well as his entire career. The best candidate to take over as the game’s dominant closer is Craig Kimbrel, and he can put up some eye popping numbers as well, like we have seen in previous seasons and so far this year.

It’s super early and we really shouldn’t compare the two seriously for many years to come, but it is extremely exciting as a Braves fan to know that we have a pitcher with Mariano Rivera potential. For now, let’s enjoy the final stage of Rivera’s great career (he’s one of the few Yankees I actually like) and watch Kimbrel grow and improve his own.

What do you think about Craig Kimbrel becoming as good or even better than Mariano Rivera?

Topics: Atlanta Braves, Craig Kimbrel, Mariano Rivera

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  • Eric

    He is on the right track, but he has a loooooooooong way to go. Not fair to compare Craig with the BEST closer of all-time when he isn’t even 3 full seasons into his career as a closer.

  • Angie

    This is ridiculous, and I like Kimbrel. First of all, in Rivera’s 1996 season, he was a setup man, not a closer. So that’s a full season of Rivera as a reliever without even getting more than 5 save opportunities. Second, 1995-2013. When Kimbrel even dreams of sniffing the 9 or 10-year mark (roughly the halfway point of Rivera’s career), then articles like this won’t seem so stupid.

    3-4 years of being great is great – but it’s asinine to compare it to Rivera, or even mention him in relation to reliever who’s only been pitching for 3 MLB seasons.