Craig Kimbrel

How good is Craig Kimbrel? Let David Ross explain

Rob Bradford
November 20, 2015 - 4:13 am
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Granted, it is based off three seasons ago, but David Ross' recollection of Craig Kimbrel offers some pretty powerful insight as to the closer the Red Sox just acquired. "One of the best I've ever caught," said Ross, who was Kimbrel's teammate in Atlanta before the catcher joined the Red Sox for the 2013 season. "When I caught him it was just that good. He was dominating. I haven't seen that time of game over since [Eric] Gagne. And then I left Kimbrel and got Koji [Uehara]. You saw that run Koji went on. That was Kimbrel. If somebody hit a home run off of him you were like, 'What the heck?' He's pretty impressive in terms of what he's able to do." Looking back at that run, it's hard to argue with the current Cubs catcher. With Ross as his backstop in 2012, Kimbrel didn't allow a single run in 16 appearances, giving up four hits in 49 at-bats (.082). He struck out 28 and walked just three. That year, Kimbrel was as good as the 2013 Koji, finishing with a 1.01 ERA while striking out 116 in 62 2/3 innings. The results in the post-Ross years have done nothing to change the backstop's opinion. From 2013-15, Kimbrel has allowed a .155 batting average against with a 13.40 strikeouts-per innings, fifth-best of any reliever over that time. Why so good? Let Ross explain ... "He's deceptive, one, especially for a righty," the catcher said. "He's a little bit across his body. He's got that shoulder that's kind of coming at you. It's like Billy Wagner. You have that short-arm, short guy with the short-arm arm stroke. And rather than a downward plain, his ball climbs. He's got really good spin on his ball. So it's really hard to get on top of his baseball, so most guys swing under his fastball rather than over and then when he throws down in the zone it looks like it's going to be a ball and it isn't. "I remember Buster Posey took a 3-1 fastball right down the middle and I remember even before I caught it, him yelling, '[Gosh darn] it!' He didn't realize how much that ball was going to jump. And when it's up you're just not going to get on top of it because he throws too hard. And then he's got one of the better breaking balls that's you're going to see. It just depends if he's throwing it for strikes. "He can really blow fastballs by guys. It was pretty ridiculous. He's not a location guy. He's a power guy. I think he's locating a little bit more the older he's getting. But he would throw it right down the middle and blow guys away. His fastball was too much for guys." The other piece of the equation is the ability for Kimbrel to do it in this market, and in the American League East. Not a problem, explained Ross. "His personality will be a great fit," he said of the Alabama native. "You'll love it. He turns the page really quick. He's a hard worker. He's pretty resilient. I don't know if he's going to be in place like he's going to be in, so that will be a little different in terms of all the scrutiny and all the questions. But as far as a person, you're not going to find a better dude. He's a typical closer. He's not going to Craig Breslow you to death. But he cares about winning and he cares about performance. He's passionate about his job. He wants to dominate. "I was actually really happy for him. I loved the environment in Boston. I love the expectation of wanting to win every year. I think everyone should be able to play in a place like Boston. I wish everybody could experience that. I was super happy for him. I texted him what a great organization he was going to with great dudes."