Originally written November 14, 2012 on Fox Sports South:
Craig Kimbrel had an amazing, record-breaking season, so its just wrong hes not among the three finalists for the NL Cy Young that will be awarded today. It will go to either Los Angeles Clayton Kershaw, Washingtons Gio Gonzalez or New Yorks R.A. Dickey, but Kimbrel deserved to be among the finalists, if not the winner. I know, relievers never receive much consideration for baseballs top pitching award. Only two Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and Eric Gagne in 2003 have won it in the past 20 years. Kimbrels magical season deserved recognition. Watching him pitch this year, and the things he did were pretty amazing, fellow reliever Jonny Venters said. Hes done some things that no one else has ever done in the game, and I think that definitely deserves some recognition. Kimbrels surface numbers 3-1 record, 1.01 ERA and 42 saves in 45 chances are outstanding, but lets review his true dominance. Im not going all Sabermetric here, but you dont need to be a CSI to see that his strikeouts provide all the evidence. Using stats from MLB.com, Kimbrel struck out more than half of the batters he faced 116 of 231 (50.2 percent) the best strikeout rate in MLB history. All those came in 62 23 innings, which equals a ratio of 16.7 strikeouts per nine innings, also the best ever in the big leagues. You want more? He also set MLB records for opponents batting average (.128) and hits allowed per nine innings (3.88) and an NL record with a 0.65 WHIP (walks plus hits per nine innings). In his most dominating inning, Kimbrel struck out three Nationals on 10 pitches to seal a 2-1 victory on Sept. 14. All 10 pitches were strikes, with only a foul ball keeping him from whiffing all three hitters on nine pitches. There are cases for the three finalists. Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA) helped the Nationals win the NL East. Dickey (20-6, 2.73, 230 strikeouts), the recycled knuckleballer who just turned 38, is the sentimental favorite. Kershaw led the NL with a 2.53 ERA, but won only 14 games. Kimbrel deserved a shot. If you dont believe me, ask any hitter who faced him this year. Behind the plate Losing backup catcher David Ross was a huge blow, especially considering that Brian McCann could miss spring training and the first month of the season. Ross and the Braves were a perfect match, but he couldnt pass up the two-year, 6.2-million deal from the Red Sox. He made about 1.6 million a year in each of his final three seasons with the Braves, a deal considering his tremendous impact in the clubhouse, at the plate and behind it. Atlanta will pursue a free agent to fill in while McCann is out, but Christian Bethancourt, the Braves No. 2 prospect according to MLB.com, could start the season with the big team, although he hasnt played above Double-A Mississippi. The Braves could also try Evan Gattis, the 26-year-old who has impressed with his power, but was moved to left field at Mississippi. Spring fever Pitchers and catchers will report to spring training on Feb. 11, followed by the rest of the team on Feb. 14. They will open the spring schedule against defending American League champion Detroit on Feb. 22 and will host the New York Yankees on Feb. 23. The Braves will play 18 games at Disneys Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., including four at night. Those are: Nationals, March 1, 6:05 p.m. Tigers, March 7, 6:05 p.m. Yankees, March 16, 5:05 p.m. Nationals, March 21, 6:05 p.m. Tickets go on sale on Nov. 26 at Braves.comspringtraining, at the Wide World of Sports box office and through Ticketmaster. New man in Gwinnett Randy Ready, who played for the Brewers, Padres, Phillies, As and Expos in his 13-year major league career, will manage the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves after Dave Brundage was hired by the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Phillies Triple-A team. Ready last managed Portland in 2009 and was the Padres hitting coach from July of that year until 2011.
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