It’s safe to say that Craig Kimbrel’s time with the Chicago Cubs has been forgetful for the most part. He made his spring debut yesterday and surrendered a home run.
Craig Kimbrel signed with the Chicago Cubs in early June 2019. The deal was for three years and worth $43 million and an option for a fourth year. Kimbrel rushed to get ready and made his debut at the end of June.
Kimbrel had the worst season of his career by far, finishing with just 13 saves and a 6.53 ERA, all while battling an injury. It’s effortless to throw last year out since Kimbrel didn’t have his normal routine and sort of rushed to get out to the mound for the Cubs.
He made his spring debut on Wednesday, pitching one inning, striking out two hitters, but giving up a home run. He gave up nine dingers in just 20 2/3 innings last year, which is a career-high. His FIP of 8.00 is also a career-high.
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He had career high’s in all the categories pitchers don’t want career highs in last season. According to reports, his fastball Wednesday sat 95-96, which is an encouraging sign for a first appearance.
The home runs are a trend and can be a cause for concern, but it’s not time to worry yet. It’s only spring training, and in 2016, the Cubs went 11-19 in the tune-up games. Nonetheless, the home run trend needs to come down for Kimbrel. The juiced ball in 2019 also possibly contributed to Kimbrel’s home run numbers, as the totals across the league were up for all pitchers and hitters.
Last year’s performance from Kimbrel should have been expected, as pitchers are creatures of habit. He had no way of getting ready for a full season, and he (as well as the Cubs) paid the price with the injury and poor performance.
Overall, Kimbrel should be fine. It was one appearance, and he was just trying to find his stuff and figure out what works and what doesn’t. He did strike out Joey Votto in his first spring at-bat, so it’s not like he has completely lost it. Plus, Kimbrel will be motivated to avenge last year’s performance. Fans need to believe in Kimbrel as much as he believes in himself.
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We know what Kimbrel can be. He leads all active pitchers in saves with 346 and has five seasons of 40 saves or more, but relievers are volatile and can their effectiveness can leave them at any time.
His long history of dominant success should put some Cubs fans at ease. If Kimbrel can find his form again this year and become the shut down closer, he always has been, that makes the Cubs a lot more dangerous at the end of games.