Leading the National League in saves is an excellent way to make a first impression on awards voters. The Baseball Writers Association of America clearly agreed, making Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel a unanimous choice for NL Rookie of the Year.
Kimbrel, 23, racked up 46 saves for the Braves this past season, tying the Milwaukee Brewers' John Axford for the league lead. He also broke the previous major league record for saves by a rookie, set last season when Neftali Feliz saved 40 for the Texas Rangers. Not coincidentally, Feliz went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year award.
But saves aren't the only number that showed how impressive a season Kimbrel had. His 127 strikeouts were easily the most among major league relievers this year, surpassing Tyler Clippard by 23. (And Clippard pitched 11 1/3 more innings.)
Only one other pitcher had a higher strikeout rate than Kimbrel's 14.84 per nine innings. And though fellow rookie Kenley Jansen struck out 16.10 per nine...