Boston Red Sox player preview 2018: A dominant Craig Kimbrel

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 30: Craig Kimbrel
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 30: Craig Kimbrel /

Craig Kimbrel was one of the most overpowering arms in the MLB in 2017. Can the Boston Red Sox closer continue his dominance this season?

Ever since his rookie debut in 2010, Craig Kimbrel has been one of the most dominant forces in baseball. In 2016, the Boston Red Sox were lucky enough to welcome the elite closer to their team.

Last season, the 6x All-Star put together a masterpiece, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

In 2017, Kimbrel recorded 35 saves in 67 appearances. He totaled 69 innings on the year and posted a miniscule 1.43 ERA to go along with an incredible 9 K/BB ratio.

This virtuosic performance was relieving for Boston Red Sox fans. 2015 and 2016 were the two worst statistical seasons of Kimbrel’s career, so 2017 was proof that the previous two years were anomalies in an otherwise consistent career.

Moving forward, there’s no reason to believe Kimbrel can’t put up numbers similar to last year’s. That’s bad news for opposing teams.

What To Expect in 2018

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The first thing to look for when watching Kimbrel pitch this season is his RPG of an arm. Before analyzing his pitches, take a moment to enjoy and appreciate his 100mph fastball and devastating knuckle curve.

He throws the ball from a 3-quarter arm slot and angles it across the plate, similar to Chris Sale. It’s pretty hard to hit an upper-90’s heater that moves diagonally through the strike zone. In addition, his arm slot makes his knuckle curve doubly deceiving. The way he releases the ball allows for his breaker to resemble a fastball for longer.

So now that we’ve established that Kimbrel is unhittable, what is there to possibly worry about? It certainly isn’t his pitch arsenal.

The only thing that could potentially lead to an off-year for Kimbrel is accuracy. However, after the most accurate season of his career (1.8 BB/9), it’s hard to believe that he’ll regress significantly in this category.

The only other thing to note is that Kimbrel’s usage might be slightly different than it was last season. Alex Cora is on record saying he won’t hesitate to use Kimbrel whenever he’s needed, be it in the 8th inning, 9th inning, or any other inning.

Personally, I love this idea. There’s no use saving your closer for the 9th inning if you’re going to blow the lead in the 8th. If Dirty Craig can help get the Boston Red Sox out of an 8th inning jam, let him. Let the big dog eat, as they say.

Next: Boston Red Sox player preview 2018: A new, resourceful Rick Porcello

Yes, this should be another year of dominance for one of the best closers to ever take the mound.