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Has Craig Kimbrel Earned the Closer Role for the Cubs?

Although Chicago Cubs fans wrote off Craig Kimbrel as dead weight after his first four 2020 appearances, he has been dominating hitters ever since.

It’s no secret that Craig Kimbrel has not been worth his contract over his tenure with the Chicago Cubs thus far. He has his miserable 2019, which featured a 6.53 ERA and -1.1 fWAR, to thank for that fanbase perception. Kimbrel also somehow put up even worse numbers to start off his 2020 campaign. Through his first four appearances, he gave up seven earned runs and walked five batters in just 2.2 innings pitched (IP). Those numbers are nothing short of catastrophic, and because of it, the Chicago Cubs fanbase collectively wrote him off as dead weight.

2019 Craig Kimbrel is Long Gone

However, what most of the Cubs fanbase has refused to acknowledge is just how excellent Kimbrel has been ever since that fourth outing. In his 12 appearances since, he has given up only two earned runs in 11.1 IP, good for a 1.59 ERA. Yes, those two runs came when the Cubs played the Reds on August 29th, a game in which Kimbrel blew the save and also walked three batters. That is not ideal. But if you want to get into statistics, that means he has had a perfect 0.00 ERA in 11 of his last 12 outings. This shows that the blown save against the Reds is actually the anomaly of who Craig Kimbrel truly is right now.

If you exclude that anomaly, in addition to his perfect 0.00 ERA, Kimbrel has put up a staggering 0.66 WHIP and 18.6 K/9 since his fourth outing. Those are best-closer-in-baseball numbers, and it’s not particularly close. And even including that appearance against the Reds, he has a 0.99 WHIP and 19.5 K/9 since that fourth outing. Those numbers are phenomenal.

Sure, Jeremy Jeffress has earned every bit of his closer status for the Cubs. I’m not taking anything away from him. But while watching Jeffress pitch the inning after Kimbrel on Wednesday, the difference in velocity and pitch movement was profound. Jeffress just doesn’t have the stuff that Kimbrel has. This isn’t debatable.

Craig Kimbrel has the wipeout stuff to carry the Cubs’ bullpen through an October playoff run, much like Aroldis Chapman did in 2016.
Photo: Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
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Kimbrel is Crucial to the Cubs’ Postseason Success

When Craig Kimbrel is on, and he has been in 11 of his last 12 outings, he is far and away the best reliever Cubs fans have seen since Aroldis Chapman. And guess what? Chapman is one of the fundamental reasons the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016. You need that guy with wipeout stuff who can come into high-leverage innings and shut the door. Craig Kimbrel is that guy for the 2020 Cubs, and he’s shown it the last month.

Make no mistake, if the Cubs make a run in the postseason, Kimbrel will have been instrumental in that success. There’s a reason why he’s considered one of the best closers in the history of MLB.


Featured Photo: Bleacher Report

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