Boston Red Sox 2017 review: Craig Kimbrel was the ultimate closer

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Craig Kimbrel
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Craig Kimbrel /

At the end of the 2016 season the Boston Red Sox didn’t know if Craig Kimbrel was going to be their man.

Now at the end of 2017 the Boston Red Sox couldn’t be much more confident in close Craig Kimbrel.


I always tell people to give me the bad news first so that the good news will dull the blow. This time there isn’t much to mention that can be classified as “bad news”. I’ll get this over quick.

Statistically, Craig Kimbrel was virtually perfect. He came off the worst year of his career and went 5-0 in 67 appearances over 69 innings for 35 saves. The only time he had ever ended a season without a loss was in his rookie season (2010) when he only appeared in over a third fewer games.

Not only that, but Kimbrel took nearly two whole points off his ERA, dropping from 3.40 to 1.43.

Yes, I’m sorry, I know you’re asking “where’s the negative?” I’m getting there.

One stat shows the one downside to Dirty Craig’s 2017 season, games finished. Kimbrel appeared in 67 games but only finished 51 of them. Sixteen unfinished games is the most in his career. Now that doesn’t sound too bad, but the real negative of the season came during one of the games he didn’t finish.

Game Four of the ALDS, the end of the Red Sox season ended due to an uncharacteristically poor performance from Kimbrel. Coming into a tie Kimbrel gave up three hits and allowed two runs (the first being an inherited runner). After an inning of work he left with the score 5-4 and Addison Reed to replace him. Such a disappointing end to a fantastic season.


Even with the season ending the way it did, the Boston Red Sox couldn’t be happier with their closer.

As I described above, Kimbrel broke many of his career best statistics across the board in 2017. His 35 saves don’t jump out as a huge accomplishment, considering he’s cracked 50 in a season, but everything else should bring confidence to fans.

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In his second most career innings, Kimbrel gave up less than half a hit per inning. Batters scored one run on Kimbrel every seven innings and hit a homer just about every 12 innings. All this from a guy who only pitched one inning or so every appearance.

Control has always been a struggle for Kimbrel. One-hundred-plus fastballs usually are. Even so, 2017’s 14 walks is tied for a career low (and in 6.8 more innings than 2012 when he also walked 14).

Speaking of control, Craig Kimbrel struck out 126 batters in 2017, only one less than his career high in 2011 (and in 8 fewer innings). He struck out 16.4 batters per nine innings (3rd highest in his career behind 2010 and 2012) and struck out nine times more batters than he walked, another career high. If that doesn’t sound impressive enought, he struck out just under 50 percent of the batters he faced (49.6).

All-in-all, the Boston Red Sox’s closer certainly earned his sixth All-Star appearance and some votes in the Cy Young polls.

Next: Boston Red Sox: No need to make a big move this offseason

Looking toward 2018

Craig Kimbrel is heading into the final season of his contract with the Red Sox before heading into free agency. Despite the already huge $13 Million contract he has for this year I’d be surprised if the Red Sox don’t extend his contract. If he keeps up this level of play, let alone if he continues to improve, Dirty Craig is headed to Cooperstown.