Chicago Cubs: The team should get more from the closer
Another relative surprise from these projections is that closer Craig Kimbrel isn’t getting a whole lot of respect, either. I understand that he’s coming off a 2019 season that was a total disaster. I also know that the safe projection is to put him somewhere in between what he did last year and what we’re more used to seeing throughout his career.
Still, the 3.40 ERA they have him at would tie for what is by far the second-highest of his career, in 2016 with the Red Sox (the highest, of course, being last year’s 6.53). Yet what’s even more discouraging is that they are predicting that he will only give the team 43 2/3 innings. Before last year, the right-hander had given his team at least 53 innings every year since 2011.
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Kimbrel figures to be with the team all year. What are they predicting so few innings for? Is he going to get hurt again? Is the team going to have that few of closing opportunities? Whatever happens, as long as Kimbrel stays healthy, he will quickly fly by that innings total. Besides, while I don’t think Kimbrel will be as dominant as he was years ago, I think he’ll end up with a better ERA than 3.40.
It’s because of all this that I was confused by the web site’s explanation of their prediction: “ZiPS is rather optimistic about Craig Kimbrel; hopefully a healthier season without an odd stint of unemployment will at least get him back to his Boston form.” It doesn’t seem to me like they were optimistic at all. If Kimbrel is healthy and has a full campaign with the Cubs, there’s plenty of reason to believe he can do better more than what ZiPS is projecting. The team certainly needs him to.