On Thursday afternoon, Chicago Cubs’ closer Craig Kimbrel recorded his 350th career save. After a tumultuous start to his Cubs career, the seven-time All-Star looks to be returning to form early on in the 2021 season.
This highlight from yeserday is the version of Kimbrel the Cubs signed and gave $43 million to in 2019.
That strut has a great deal of confidence and swag behind it, and if you’ve watched him pitch recently you’d understand why. So far in 2021, Kimbrel has recorded nine strikeouts while allowing no earned runs, hits, or walks over 4.2 innings. Kimbrel’s five-out save on Thursday marked the first such occurrence of his career and resulted in the 350 milestone.
What we’re seeing is a top closer in the league, and this time around he is willing to come in before the ninth inning and with runners on base. That can likely be attributed to Kimbrel’s performance before the end of 2020, which was extremely subpar, so it’s nice to see him check his ego and go out there when he is called upon to shut the door.
Dating back to September 3rd of 2020, Kimbrel’s stat line reads 12 IP, 3 H, 0BB, 0 ER, and a whopping 22 K. He has faced 38 batters and sat down 22 of them. His fastball is averaging 97.1 MPH, allowing him to dominate hitters with it.
It’s no surprise that the numbers are showing exactly what we’re seeing, but we’re not the only ones seeing it. Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago reports that opposing hitters/baserunners are telling Javier Baez that Kimbrel is back to being his dominant self.
Opposing hitters are back to fearing Craig Kimbrel, and they are no longer feeling any sort of hope when he is on the mound with a lead. Continued consistent performance at the back end of the bullpen will be vital for Kimbrel and the Cubs, but things look to be trending in the right direction.