On Wednesday night, Major League Baseball was set to announce the results of both the AL and NL Cy Young voting to award the best pitchers in each league with the game’s highest single-season honor for their craft. Braves fans were likely lacking focus on the award, however, as the team didn’t really present a “legitimate” candidate.
Then, the results came out.
Braves relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel finished in a surprising (at least to me) tie for 4th place on Wednesday night, cementing what was a fantastic year, and reminding the “nerd” community (ahem) that people still value closers in a major way. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw ran away with the award with 29 of 30 of the 1st place votes, followed by Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright and 2013 Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, but Kimbrel fell next in line in a tie with Mets pitcher Matt Harvey.
In 2013, Kimbrel was lights-out as usual. He threw 67 innings, posted an insane 1.21 (!) ERA, and struck out 98 batters, which was good for 13.16 K’s per 9 innings. It seems silly to suggest that it was a “down” year from Kimbrel (which many did), but in fact, his ERA was up from an even more insane 1.01 in 2012, and his strikeout rate was actually a 4-year low, making his previous efforts shine even further.
Of course, there is the subject of “value”, and that is the reason why I am a bit surprised by Kimbrel’s high finish. According to FanGraphs, Kimbrel only posted a 2.2 WAR (wins above replacement) this season despite the insane ratios, and that would place him in a tie for 30th (yes, 30th) among NL pitchers with the likes of Andrew Cashner and Trevor Rosenthal. Before the traditional fans revolt on me, it should be noted that WAR is only one statistical category, but for me, starting pitchers are significantly more valuable than closers, and you would have to go at least 10-15 names down the list before I listed a closer on a Cy Young ballot.
Now that we’ve set that negativity ablaze, Craig Kimbrel had an utterly fantastic season, and he was an integral part to the Braves winning 96 games and the NL East title. We can begin to hope for similar results in 2014, but Wednesday’s vote certainly reminds us of just how dominant he was during 2013.