Craig Kimbrel's small margin between best reliever ever and best reliever of right now.
My current favorite fun fact, a fun fact that I’ve repeated in chats, on Twitter, on Ben Lindbergh’s award-winning podcast, and now in an article, is this: In 2012, Craig Kimbrel struck out more batters on three pitches than Justin Verlander did. It’s got everything I like in a fun fact: It favorably compares a player to a more famous player; it compares his accomplishment in one context (in this case, an opportunities-based context) to an accomplishment in a much more favorable context; it uses a statistic that isn’t really a statistic so much as a description and thus has more descriptive impact than a traditional statistic; it’s not an easily dismissed small sample size; its cheats aren’t obvious, if they exist at all; and it captures not just a player but an era, the era of the ridiculous strikeout reliever. It got to the heart of the thing, which was that Craig Kimbrel was so good that you wondered whether he actually posed an existential threat to baseball itself.
Kimbrel has been awesome this year. You could take his pitching line and a time machine back to 1976 and it would look so scary to that generation that the Russians might bomb Huntsville, AL to prevent the Kimbrel from ever being developed. It’s a spectacular line! But it doesn’t take much for a Fun Fact Machine to become just a great player.
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The pitch before the pitch that sent the Dominican Republic to the WBC semifinals.
If you weren’t watching the World Baseball Classic on Thursday night, you missed a memorable moment with one out in the top of the ninth, when Dominican Republic pinch-hitter Erick Aybarbroke a 1-1 tie with a single off US closer Craig Kimbrel, driving in Nelson Cruz from third. The go-ahead run proved to be the winning run, sending the 5-0 Dominicans to the semifinals and the 3-2 Americans to an elimination game against Puerto Rico on Friday.
Strikeouts are up this season, and this quartet of untouchable closers is driving the trend.
The evolution of pitching in the 21st century has trended toward increased specialization, to the point of eight-man bullpens and strict pitch counts for starters. The complete game has all but vanished from the baseball lexicon, and most pitching staffs are now structured with the goal of getting through six innings with a lead before handing the ball to the bullpen. Frequent pitching changes have been unkind to the hardcore fan base, slowing the pace of the game when the drama is at its peak, but the stats reflect the advantages that are gained through the tireless recycling of arms.
Major League Baseball has witnessed a historic trend toward increasing strikeouts, with 2012's league-wide K rate of 19.7 percent (through Wednesday) representing the highest figure of all time. The 1.1-point jump in strikeout percentage from 2011 is the largest season-to-season gain in 25 years. Interestingly, we are not in the middle of some historic home run binge, and the 300-K starter has gone the way of the dodo in the span of about 10 years. Mere memories remain of the exploits of Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, while 2011 strikeout kings Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw hit the ceiling at 250 strikeouts, a level that no pitcher is likely to crack this season. The 300-K starter has been replaced by the 100-K reliever.
Craig Kimbrel has been unhittable after a first-pitch strike.
Craig Kimbrel has faced 153 batters this year, and he has thrown a first-pitch strike to 106 of them. Nine of those batters put the first pitch in play. They went 0-for-9. The other 97 batters have 10 hits, no extra-base hits, three walks and 62 strikeouts. They are hitting .106/.134/.106. The entire group of 106 is hitting .096/.121/.096.
Three players tell Sam about the toughest pitches they've seen this season. They weren't the ones you'd expect.
Since the very first Best Pitches Thrown This Week, we’ve bumped up against the limits of what we can really conclude about a pitch. The pitch is not meant to impress us; it is meant to impress the batter, and we are not the batter, so our conclusions are answering the wrong question. So this week I asked some baseball players to name the nastiest pitch they have seen this year. These are their answers, which are interesting to me because these are absolutely not the answers I would have given for them. None of these guys even fell over! Batter falling over is 90 percent of my typical assessment. But they know. I don’t know. They know. Here we go.
Bryce Harper, at 19, has faced four of the best strikeout pitchers in history. Here's how he has done.
I was lying on the floor Saturday, throwing a pen up in the air and catching it, and wondering when Bryce Harper would face Clayton Kershaw so I could watch it. Typical Saturday stuff. And it occurred to me: Kershaw? Who cares about Kershaw? He’s the best pitcher in the National League, sure, but Kershaw over seven innings isn’t nearly as dominant as the most dominant relievers are in just one inning. Even without facing Kershaw, Bryce Harper has faced almost-impossible pitching in the majors. The five pitchers Harper has faced with the highest strikeout rates this year:
With the regular season complete, we take a look at the BP fantasy crew's votes for a variety of awards.
With the fantasy season coming to a close this past week, each member of the BP Fantasy team cast their votes for a variety of categories. Today, I'm here to hand out the theoretical hardware. After seeing who we thought had the best, worst, and most interesting 2011 seasons, be sure to tell us who you think deserved some recognition in the comments section.
Now that the regular season has wrapped up, here's a look at who BP staffers think should win the major awards.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff choices for the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that has been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.