Going all the way back to August 14 of last year, Craig Kimbrel has been absurd. That wasn’t an arbitrary date either, since Kimbrel had just sat down for over a week – kept out of games – to work on serious mechanical issues that were leaving him a total mess out there in his first four outings.
Since August 14, Kimbrel has made 37 appearances (35.2 IP), posting a 1.01 ERA, holding batters to a .117/.219/.158 slash line, striking out 47.4% of the batters he’s faced(!), walked 10.9%, and posted a 1.22 FIP. Consider that, even before coming to the Cubs, Kimbrel’s career ERA was 1.91, his FIP was 1.96, his strikeout rate was 41.6%, and his walk rate was 9.8%. In other words, over this stretch with the Cubs, Kimbrel has been even better than his career marks. You have to go back to his days with the Braves nearly a decade ago to find a stretch where he was this good or better.
The point there is that what we have seen from Craig Kimbrel since August 14 is a very, very good version of Craig Kimbrel. We are seeing him perform at nearly peak level. We know what it looks like for him.
AND YET! Here were so many of us saying that last night, how he looked closing things out against the Padres with three strike Ks was the best we’ve seen him look with the Cubs. That’s how good he looked last night!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 2, 2021
The three-pitch Wil Myers at bat was just cruel:
Craig Kimbrel. Reported. Bullying. 😯 pic.twitter.com/wDJsaMGq8G
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 2, 2021
By the metrics, Kimbrel’s fastball and knuckle curve featured roughly typical spin and movement, but each was up about 1.5 mph over his yearly averages!
Even the guy who’s been catching him now for a long time agreed that was the best we’ve seen him:
Kimbrel threw 13 pitches Tuesday night. He induced 5 swings — all whiffs. Had 4 called strikes. Struck out the side in order to close out the W, averaging 98.3 mph with fastball.
Contreras: "I think this is the best stuff that he's had with us. … Right now, he's unhittable."
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 2, 2021
Remember how Kimbrel was forced to change/clean his hat last time out? I guess it’s still a lucky hat, eh?