Craig Kimbrel
Did Craig Kimbrel forget how to play baseball or should we have seen his rapid decline coming? Kimbrel has fallen off a cliff. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Craig Kimbrel was set to go down as one of the best closers ever and possibly a Hall of Fame career. After being hit with a qualifying offer during the 2019 offseason, Kimbrel had a hard time finding home. Eventually, Kimbrel signed with the Cubs on a 3 year contract worth $43 million. Since then, Kimbrel has forgotten how to play baseball.

The contract the Cubs gave him didn’t seem smart at the time but nobody expected Kimbrel to be THIS BAD. In 20.2 innings in 2019, Kimbrel posted a 6.53 ERA while giving up a laughable 3.9 homers per 9. While it’s a super short sample size, Kimbrel has gotten worse again. In 2020, Kimbrel has an ERA of 27 in 2 outings.

Part of what made Kimbrel so lethal was his low release point. Hitters had a tough time picking up on Kimbrel because he held the ball for so long before it left his hand. Kimbrel has never had great control but it didn’t matter when smoke you couldn’t see was coming straight towards you.

So how do you explain his decline form mega closer to terrible? Maybe there’s nothing to explain. Kimbrel was awful during the Red Sox 2018 World Series run. Maybe he just doesn’t have it anymore. His fastball isn’t what it used to be either. Kimbrel used to routinely hit 100 or 99 MPH. Now that he’s 32, he just doesn’t have that same heat. Kimbrel’s average fastball this year is 96 which is obviously down from his prime.

Having great deception is great but it’s not enough. In reality, Kimbrel is a two pitch pitcher with poor control and diminishing velocity. I guess we should have just seen this coming. Maybe it’s not too late for Craig Kimbrel to turn it around but the guy that we have seen recently doesn’t belong in the big leagues anymore.