This is the start of a bi-weekly column in the paper. It will cover a variety of topics, from collegiate to professional sports. Today’s beef is with the Atlanta Braves and how they have not signed former Brave Craig Kimbrel. Maybe you will agree, maybe you will disagree. But above all else, hope you enjoy the column.
If the Braves want to defend their National League East title and keep pace with the Phillies and the Mets, the bullpen must be addressed. For those that watched the opening series in Philadelphia, Braves’ pitching struggled, surrendering walks and extra base hits. The total runs given up during the three-game series: 23.
Yes, they did rebound versus the Chicago Cubs and the Miami Marlins, going 5-1 in the opening home stand, but I primarily put the Cubs sweep and the series win over Miami on the offense coming alive and solid starting pitching.
Does anyone remember O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively? Those were times where you probably felt comfortable with the Braves having a one or two run lead entering the seventh.
Now the dynamic has changed somewhat. The Braves have reunited with Venters again, back from long battles with injury. They also have Arodys Vizcaino who, when healthy, has developed into a pretty consistent closer. To me, Vizcaino is a bright spot in a bullpen that staggers.
However, what would it look like if the Braves brought back Kimbrel to the closer role and moved Vizcaino back to the set-up man, primarily used in the eighth? That gives me more confidence rolling into the eighth inning when the Braves are either tied or lead by one or two runs.
Let’s take a quick look at the numbers. Kimbrel’s last year in a Braves uniform (2014) saw him go 0-3 with a 1.61 ERA and 47 saves in 51 opportunities. Last season, in 63 regular-season games with Boston, Kimbrel went 5-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 42-47 in saves. He is now 30 with a 1.91 career ERA and 333 saves to his name, having shown consistency during his MLB tenure. The Braves have young, developing talent. Signing Kimbrel to a multi-year deal would bolster stability on the back end of the bullpen as this team looks to make consistent runs to the playoffs.
The Braves’ bats are there. They just signed Ronald Acuna, the defending NL Rookie of the Year, to a long-term deal, boosting the offense for years to come. Now it’s time to do the same for the bullpen. It’s time for yet another familiar face to make his way back to Braves Country.