Tag:Craig Kimbrel
Posted on: September 20, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 2:18 pm
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Heavy workload catching up to Venters, Kimbrel?

By Matt Snyder

The Braves are stumbling through September and have nearly squandered what once appeared an insurmountable wild-card lead. They are up just 2 1/2 games on the Cardinals and 3 1/2 games on the Giants. There are several culprits, such as injuries to the starting rotation and inconsistent offense. But we shouldn't ignore the fact that the back-end duo in the bullpen appears to be faltering.

In his last 12 appearances, Jonny Venters has a 5.56 ERA, 1.85 WHIP and two blown saves. Prior to that, Venters had a 1.10 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and two blown saves all season.

In his last six appearances, Craig Kimbrel has a 7.94 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and two blown saves in four chances. Prior to that, Kimbrel had a 1.55 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and five blown saves in 48 chances.

Here are some more stats. Entering Tuesday, Venters led the majors with 82 relief appearances. Kimbrel was tied for second with 77. Venters is third in relief innings with 85. Kimbrel is seventh with 75 1/3. As ESPN's Buster Olney pointed out via Twitter, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has never pitched in more than 74 games during a regular season. Retired great Trevor Hoffman never appeared in more than 70. Kimbrel's probably going to hit 80 as a rookie this year.

All the way back on June 10, I wrote that the heavy workload could become a concern down the road. It's entirely possible both relievers are simply experiencing a personal funk that has nothing to do with the number of appearances. Kimbrel had a 10-game stretch in the first half of the season with a 5.79 ERA before he locked in again. Venters had a nine-game stretch in late June with a 6.10 ERA, but settled back down for a while. So the argument that either pitcher is merely in a temporary bad stretch has precedent. Let's also note Kimbrel basically got three outs Monday but was a victim of circumstance. If you want to argue there's no connection between the workload and the recent ills of Venters and Kimbrel, you have plenty of ammunition.

Still, there's no disputing the young duo is piling up appearances and innings at an alarming rate, meaning their recent slumps may not be a coincidence. And they're still hoping to be strong for the playoffs, if the Braves can hold on. If Venters and Kimbrel don't get back on track, the chances of that happening aren't very good.

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Posted on: September 19, 2011 10:35 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2011 11:10 pm
 

Playoff race: Braves' heartbreaker tightens race

Omar Infante

By C. Trent Rosecrans

After just having beaten Roy Halladay and the Phillies, the Cardinals were likely in their clubhouse watching a Chipper Jones misplayed ball lead to an Omar Infante two-run, game-winning homer and pulling St. Louis to within 2.5 games of the Braves in the National League wild-card race.

If the Cardinals can come back to overtake the Braves, they've certainly earned it this weekend, taking three of four in Philadelphia, beating both Cole Hamels and Halladay in the process.

Atlanta saw an error by Infante give them a lead in the seventh inning, but then Jones' inability to field Emilio Bonifacio's chopper that Jones lost in the lights set up Infante's walk-off homer off of Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.

St. Louis' remaining schedule is nowhere near as daunting and the way the Cardinals are pitching, it could come down to the last series of the season, when St. Louis is playing the team with baseball's worst record and Atlanta is hosting the team with baseball's best record. 

There may only be a little more than a week left in the season, but it's hard to see this not going down to the wire.

Atlanta Braves
87-67
Remaining schedule: 2 @ FLA, 3 @ WAS, 3 vs. PHI
Coolstandings.com chances of winning Wild Card: 78.2 percent

St. Louis Cardinals
84-69, 2.5 GB
Remaining schedule: 3 vs. NYM, 3 vs. CHC, 3 @ HOU
Coolstandings.com chances of winning Wild Card: 17.7 percent

San Francisco Giants
83-70, 3.5 GB
Remaining schedule: 3 @ LAD, 3 @ ARI, 3 vs. COL
Coolstandings.com chances of winning Wild Card: 3.4 percent

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 17, 2011 10:35 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 12:09 am
 

Playoff race: Phils win East, help Braves



By C. Trent Rosecrans
 

The Braves were officially eliminated from the National League East race and they couldn't be happier about it.

There was no way Atlanta was going to catch the Phillies in the East, but a Braves win over the Mets coupled with the Phillies' victory over the Cardinals put the Braves' wild card lead at 4.5 games, with 10 games to go. Philadelphia clinched the National League East with a 9-2 victory over the Cardinals, their fifth straight division title.

Losing five of their last seven, any win -- be it 1-0 or 11-0 -- was a welcome site for the Braves. 

It wasn't easy for Atlanta on Saturday, as Tim Hudson and New York's R.A. Dickey locked into a fantastic pitchers' duel, allowing just seven hits between them. Hudson allowed four, but struck out 10 and had noted Mets killer Chipper Jones on his side. Jones' two-out single in the eighth brought in the game's only run and rookie closer Craig Kimbrel recorded his 45th save, striking out all three batters he faced in the ninth.

In Philadelphia, the Phillies used a six-run eighth inning -- capped by a Raul Ibanez grand slam -- to pull away from the Cardinals, who still have to face Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay before leaving Philadelphia.

Atlanta Braves
87-65
Remaining schedule: 1 vs. NYM, 3 @ FLA, 3 @ WAS, 3 vs. PHI
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 95.4 percent

St. Louis Cardinals
82-68, 4.5 GB
Remaining schedule: 2 @ PHI, 3 vs. NYM, 3 vs. CHC, 3 @ HOU
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 3.2 percent

San Francisco Giants
82-70, 5 GB
Remaining schedule: 2 @ COL, 3 @ LAD, 3 @ARI, 3 vs. COL
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 1.1 percent

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 10, 2011 1:17 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Someone gets to Kimbrel



By Matt Snyder


Cardinals' late offense. I utterly refuse to put Craig Kimbrel in the "down" section for having his 37 2/3-inning scoreless streak broken, but it needs to be mentioned, so we're going to the Cardinals here for being the team to break it up. The Braves' rookie closer had not been scored upon since June 11 until Friday night. He had converted 25 straight saves in that time period. Friday, though, the Cardinals showed he was human. Skip Schumaker singled to open the ninth, following by a fielder's choice and strikeout. So it seemed like just another Kimbrel save. But then Rafael Furcal drew a walk. And then Ryan Theriot did the same. All of a sudden, the bases were loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with a 3-1 Braves lead. Who walks to the plate? Why, Albert Pujols, of course. It's the type of matchup that makes baseball great. Power vs. power. One swing can end it for either side, or Kimbrel could sit Pujols down himself. Pujols ended up going down the first-base line for a base hit. It scored two to tie the game before Jason Heyward gunned the ball to second base. He would have had Pujols dead to rights -- as he tried for a double -- but then Theriot attempted to get home and the Braves nailed him instead to end the inning. Still, a Nick Punto sacrifice fly would win the game for the Cardinals next inning against Scott Linebrink. But the mighty Kimbrel had been exposed as a human being and that was the big news of the game. Let us all tip our caps to him for the very impressive scoreless innings streak.

Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians. Big night for the young third baseman, as he hit a two-run home run off Mark Buehrle ... twice. The Indians won 8-4. While the Tigers have run away with the AL Central, the Indians have seen enough from several young players, like Chisenhall, to consider this season a success to this point. It will be very intriguing to see the strides made in 2012.

Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles. Maybe the intervention helped? He said he'd start listening to Metallica, after all, so maybe Guthrie did and was fired up for the start Friday night. He shut out a good Blue Jays' offense for seven innings, allowing just three hits in a 2-0 Orioles victory. In the process, he lowered his season ERA to 4.29.



John Lackey, Red Sox. There might be a Wild Card race after all, as the Rays worked the Red Sox over, 7-2, Friday night. The biggest problem was Lackey. Again. This would be the perfect time for Lackey to step up and earn his gargantuan contract, considering the injuries in the Red Sox's starting rotation. Instead, Lackey went out and allowed five hits, three walks and five earned runs in just three innings. His ERA is now 6.30.

Joe Girardi, Yankees. Rough ninth for the skipper. He pinch ran for A-Rod with Eduardo Nunez, only to send Nunez on the exact pitch the Angels called for a pitchout. The result was Nunez being nailed at second with ease. Then Girardi went with Aaron Laffey and Luis Ayala on the hill in the ninth. The result was a 2-1 loss. On the bright side, the Yankees don't seem in any danger of missing the playoffs. Also, they were playing in their third city in three days. So, in and of itself, this wasn't a huge deal.

Jimmy Paredes, Astros. In the 11th inning, Paredes gave the Nationals a walk-off throwing error. With one out and runners on first and second, Paredes fielded a bouncing ball at third base and looked to at least get a force out at second -- if not an inning-ending double play. But he threw the ball into right field, which allowed Ryan Zimmerman to come around and score. The Astros have now lost 96 games. In the history of the franchise, they've never lost more than 97 in a season.

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Posted on: September 8, 2011 9:20 pm
 

NL East has league's best rookies



By C. Trent Rosecrans

During the week, Eye on Baseball will be profiling candidates to win baseball's major awards after the season. Today: the AL Rookie of the Year.

View contenders for the: AL MVP | NL MVP | AL Cy Young | NL Cy Young | AL Rookie of the Year

Last year at this time it appeared a Brave was a shoe-in for the Rookie of the Year, but this time we mean it. The Braves will have the Rookie of the Year. Probably. The question is, which Brave will it be -- and will either avoid the sophomore slump that has plagued Jason Heyward a year after finishing second in the voting for the NL's top rookie?

The ballot asks for voters to vote for three rookies, but what's the fun in that? Here's three --plus one more in the race for the National League's best newcomer.

Danny Espinosa, Nationals: The Nationals second baseman was a leading candidate in the first half of the season, hitting 16 homers, driving in 52 and stealing 12 bases. In the second half he's hit just .206/.285/.311 with three homers and eight RBI in 47 games. Overall he's hitting .229/.316/.407. So while he's still under consideration, his drop off has been so drastic that he won't win the award, and may even struggle to get votes, because of the next htree guys...

Freddie Freeman, Braves: While Espinosa has sputtered in the second half, Freeman's just gotten better.
his home run rate has dropped, but his other stats are better since the All-Star break. The first baseman is hitting .295/.355/.462 with 18 homers and 67 RBI to go along with 30 doubles. Freeman will turn 22 next week, but already looks like a polished big leaguer, not just at the plate, but also in the field at first base.

Craig Kimbrel, Braves: Last year the American League's top rookie was a closer that took his team to the World Series -- the Braves hope it's their turn for that this season. Kimbrel leads the majors with 43 saves and hasn't allowed a run in his last 38 games, dating back to June 11. The power right-hander has struck out 115 batters in just 69 2/3 innings, walking just 26. As good as Neftali Feliz was last season, Kimbrel's already been better this year. Feliz recorded 40 saves and struck out 71 in 69 1/3 innings with a 2.73 ERA. Kimbrel bests him in all those categories, with an ERA (1.55) more than a run lower than Feliz had in his Rookie of the Year campaign.

Vance Worley, Phillies: On most teams it's not saying much to say a rookie has solidified himself as the team's No. 4 starter -- but this is the Phillies of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, three of the game's best. Worley's looked every bit like he belongs with that group. The 23-year-old right-hander is 11-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 18 starts and two relief appearances. He also has 96 strikeouts in 110 1/3 innings. If anyone is going to challenge the two Braves, it's the Phillie -- which is only fitting.

So who do you have? Let us know in the comments your pick for the NL's top rookie.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 3, 2011 1:32 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Jackson heating up for Tigers



By Matt Snyder


Austin Jackson, Tigers. The young center fielder had been an offensive disappointment for much of the Tigers' season, but he started to show signs of life a few weeks ago. Now, he's flat out hot. With a 3-for-5 game in which he hit a home run, and the Tigers won 8-1, Jackson has now put together a huge five-game stretch. In those five games, he's hitting .500 with two doubles, a triple, two homers, four RBI and eight runs scored. His OPS is 1.417 in that stretch. The Tigers lineup looks a lot scarier with him swinging the bat like he can. Just ask the White Sox.

The San Francisco Giants. They went into Friday night's game trailing the Diamondbacks by six games. The D-Backs came in with a nine-game winning streak. And the defending champs came through with exactly the effort they needed. Matt Cain battled through eight innings, despite not having his best command or stuff (he walked four while only striking out three). The offense got a huge effort from July acquisition Carlos Beltran (4-for-4, triple, home run, three RBI). Put it together and mix in an all-around team effort, and you have a 6-2 Giants victory. The deficit is still five games, but there are two games left in the series at San Fran. This thing could be three games by Labor Day. Of course, if the D-Backs take the next two it's a seven-game difference. We'll see. Head-to-head series in the last month are fun.

Kevin Millwood, Rockies. I don't care if it was against the offensively-challenged Padres in the best pitcher's park in the majors, because Millwood was picked up off the scrap heap by Colorado. Thus, his seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts and zero walks in the Rockies' 3-0 win certainly bears mention here.



Andrew Miller, Red Sox. With the Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka injures -- not to mention how unreliable John Lackey has been -- the Red Sox lost a lot of starting pitching depth. So when Miller strung together back-to-back victories (0.77 ERA), there was hope that the former first rounder might be finally emerging. Instead, Friday night was a wakeup call. Miller coughed up five hits, four walks and six earned runs to the Rangers in just 1 1/3 innings. The outing set the tone for a 10-0 loss, as the offense was stymied by Derek Holland, who threw seven shutout innings. Meanwhile, the Yankees won, which means the Red Sox are now back to second place (by a half game).

John Danks, White Sox. The White Sox have a big opportunity this weekend, but didn't start off on the right foot Friday. They entered the three-game series trailing the Tigers by 5 1/2 games. With Justin Verlander pitching Friday, Danks was going to have to bring his A-game and keep it close. Instead, he turned in one of his worst outings of the season. The Tigers dinged him for nine hits and eight earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, as the White Sox lost 8-1. The loss essentially makes the final two games of the series must-wins for the White Sox. If they lose both, they'll be 8 1/2 out. Even a split keeps them at 6 1/2 and that's tough to make up in 3 1/2 weeks -- especially when Verlander is going every fifth day for the team they're chasing.

Braves pitching staff/planning. The Braves' staff was spotted a 5-0 lead through three innings Friday, but couldn't hold it. One of the biggest issues may have been the overuse of Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel at the back-end of the bullpen. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had told reporters he wanted to avoid using either Friday. So that means he was likely holding back from using Scott Linebrink or Eric O'Flaherty before the eighth. After starter Brandon Beachy let the Dodgers creep to within 5-3 in the sixth, Gonzalez needed to dip into his reportedly short-handed bullpen. The result was Arodys Vizcaino allowing four hits, two walks and five earned runs in the seventh -- and an 8-6 loss. The Braves' usual seventh-to-eighth-to-ninth inning bullpen combo (O'Flaherty/Venters/Kimbrel) is the best in baseball, but they've been heavily leaned upon all season. Gonzalez better get them some rest down the stretch, or Friday night's game will be a harbinger for the postseason. He'll need some combination of O'Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel available in every game in October. Maybe try to get by with Linebrink or the starting pitcher in the seventh and use two of the three studs in the eighth and ninth to keep everyone fresh? It is worth mentioning that Peter Moylan will be back from his rehab assignment soon, so that should help alleviate some of the pressure.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 31, 2011 9:34 pm
 

Kimbrel sets rookie record with 41 saves

By Matt Snyder

Last season, Rangers closer Neftali Feliz set a major-league rookie record by recording 40 saves. That record would stand for just one season, as young Braves fireballer Craig Kimbrel blanked the Nationals in the ninth inning Wednesday night for his 41st save. And it's only August 31, so expect Kimbrel to set some pretty good distance between his save count and Feliz's former record.

Kimbrel, 23, has been absolutely spectacular this season for the Braves. He had one rough stretch from around mid-May to early-June -- as he collected his fifth blown save on June 8 -- but has been locked in ever since. In fact, in his last 34 appearances, Kimbrel has not allowed a single earned run. That's a span of 33 2/3 innings, in which he's locked down all 23 of his save chances and struck out 59 batters.

In all, Kimbrel has a 1.64 ERA, 41 saves and 107 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings. He has a very strong chance to be the first Braves' Rookie of the Year since Rafael Furcal took the honors in 2000. Coincidentally, one of Kimbrel's competitors for the award will be teammate Freddie Freeman.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: July 11, 2011 4:08 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 4:16 pm
 

Venters, Kimbrel talk workload, being All-Stars

By Matt Snyder

The back-end of the Braves bullpen has been touted as the best in the majors several times this season by yours truly. The only real concern for the pair of All-Stars has been workload, as both are on pace to be among the league leaders in appearances and innings pitched for relief pitchers.

On Monday, CBSSports.com had the chance to talk with the two young pitchers about workload, slight slumps and the late addition of Kimbrel. Of note there, Venters flew out after Sunday's game with Brian McCann and Jair Jurrjens. Kimbrel didn't find out until it was too late and he had to fly alone a bit later.

Here's Venters:



Here's Kimbrel:



The video of Kimbrel is cut-off, naturally, as the battery on the flip phone ran out. Fear not, we were collecting his quotes.

On the workload issue, Kimbrel said his arm has felt pretty much the same all season. He still feels strong and doesn't think he'll falter as the season continues.

"We're relief pitchers, we're made to throw four to five times a week," he said.

On the slight slump Kimbrel had before getting incredibly locked in of late, he simply said, "That's just baseball," disputing the common sentiment at the time that he was tired. It's hard to argue, as Kimbrel hasn't allowed a run in his past 14 appearances, a stretch that includes 10 saves and 22 strikeouts against only three walks and three hits.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com