CRAIG Michael KIMBREL
Image of Dirty Craig
Nickname:   Dirty Craig Position:   RHP
Home: N/A Team:   WHITE SOX
Height: 6' 0" Bats:   R
Weight: 210 Throws:   R
DOB: 5/28/1988 Agent: David Meter
Uniform #: 24  
Birth City: Huntsville, AL
Draft: Braves #3 - 2008 - Out of Wallace State C.C. (AL)
YR LEA TEAM SAL(K) G IP H SO BB GS CG SHO SV W L OBA ERA
2008 APP DANVILLE   12 19 5 27 10 0 0 0 6 1 2   0.47
2008 SAL ROME   10 12.2 6 26 4 0 0 0 4 2 0   0.71
2008 CAR MYRTLE BEACH   2 3.2 5 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0   0.00
2009 IL GWINNETT   2 2 0 3 4 0 0 0 0 0 0   0.00
2009 SL MISSISSIPPI   12 11.2 3 17 7 0 0 0 6 2 1   0.77
2009 SAL ROME   16 20 9 38 6 0 0 0 10 0 0   0.90
2009 CAR MYRTLE BEACH   19 26.1 18 45 28 0 0 0 2 0 2   5.47
2010 IL GWINNETT   48 55.2 28 83 35 0 0 0 23 3 2   1.62
2010 NL BRAVES   21 20.2 9 40 16 0 0 0 1 4 0 0.125 0.44
2011 NL BRAVES $419.00 79 77 48 127 32 0 0 0 46 4 3 0.178 2.10
2012 NL BRAVES $590.00 63 62.2 27 116 14 0 0 0 42 3 1 0.126 1.01
2013 NL BRAVES $655.00 68 67 39 98 20 0 0 0 50 4 3 0.166 1.21
2014 NL BRAVES $7,250.00 63 61.2 30 95 26 0 0 0 47 0 3 0.142 1.61
2015 NL PADRES $9,250.00 61 59.1 40 87 22 0 0 0 39 4 2 0.185 2.58
2016 IL PAWTUCKET   1 0.1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0   0.00
2016 AL RED SOX $11,250.00 57 53 28 83 30 0 0 0 31 2 6 0.152 3.40
2017 AL RED SOX $13,000.00 67 69 33 126 14 0 0 0 35 5 0 0.14 1.43
2018 AL RED SOX $13,000.00 63 62.1 31 96 31 0 0 0 42 5 1 0.146 2.74
2019 PCL IOWA   4 3.2 2 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0   2.45
2019 NL CUBS   23 20.2 21 30 12 0 0 0 13 0 4 0.259 6.53
2020 NL CUBS $5,926.00 18 15.1 10 28 12 0 0 0 2 0 1 0.182 5.28
Personal
  • Kimbrel grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, the oldest of three boys. By the time he was three years old he was throwing the ball over the house. By age 5, his parents were calling him "Mr. Baseball." And by 8, he was throwing the ball so hard his grandfather couldn't catch it.

  • Craig's father, Mike, an electrician and avid motorcyclist, takes his American Indian heritage seriously (Delaware and Cherokee tribes). His mother—Craig's grandmother, Nancy Jones—is very serious about baseball.

    A former assembly line worker at the Chrysler factory, she would get off work mid-afternoon and bring sliced cantaloupe to the boys' Little League games. When Craig was 13, she bought him his first what, which he slept with. She wasn't shy about yelling to the coaches when she disagreed with them during games. By the time Craig was in high school, she was known as "Coach Grandma." It was only fitting that the boys gave her a vanity license plate that said just that.

  • Kimbrel graduated from Lee High School in Huntsville, Alabama. While working a construction job, two weeks before he was supposed to arrive at nearby Wallace State Community College for fall baseball practice, he dropped Sheetrock on his left foot and broke several bones, including those in four of his toes.

    Craig arrived at fall practice on crutches, itching to throw. So he kneeled and started throwing with a manager or trainer catching the ball.

    What Kimbrel developed were the muscles in his lower back and his butt. He got to the point where he was throwing the ball farther off two knees than the guys were who were standing up. Soon, Craig was throwing 93 to 94 miles per hour.

    There's no doubt that breaking his foot and the unusual training made Kimbrel the Major League pitcher he became. (Melanie Kaplan-Chop Talk-December, 2010)

  • In 2007, Kimbrel turned down a bonus of $125,000 after Atlanta chose him in the 33rd round of the draft. 

  • In 2008, Craig signed with the Braves, out of Wallace State Community College in Alabama. There, he earned an associate's degree in applied science.

  • In 2009, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Craig as the 10th-best prospect in the Braves organization.

    In the offseason before 2010 spring camp opened, they had Kimbrel was 5th-best in the Atlanta farm system. And they had Craig at #5 again in the spring of 2011.

  • In 2009, the Braves organization named Kimbrel as their Pitcher of the Year. That summer, he ranked second among minor league relievers with 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

  • In 2010, Craig tied for third in the International League with 23 saves. And with 83 strikeouts in 55.2 innings, Kimbrel averaged 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez praised Kimbrel's dedication to studying film. After every outing, good or bad, Kimbrel watches himself and writes down where his pitches ended up in relation to his intended target. Pitching coach Roger McDowell jokes that Kimbrel will one day author a book titled "Every Pitch I've Thrown." (2011)

  • In 2011, Kimbrel was named the NL's Rookie of the Year in a unanimous vote. He set a Major League record for saves by a rookie with 46. 

  • For Father's Day on June 17, 2012, Craig presented his Dad, Mike, with a new Harley-Davidson. The Kimbrel family made the trip from Huntsville, Ala., for the occasion. On the field for the event were Kimbrel's brothers, Allen and Matt, and grandfather Mel.

  • February 18, 2013: Kimbrel hit a hole-in-one at the tough Champions Gate Golf Club. Kimbrel lost sight of the ball on the 180-yard second hole, and figured it fell into a green-side bunker. He looked everywhere except the hole.

    Kimbrel says he "couldn't believe it," adding, "I think it went in on the fly. It was my first one."

    He got a break after the round when he was made aware that it was up to anyone shooting an ace to buy a round of drinks for everyone.

    Kimbrel says laughing, "It was a charity event. There was an open bar. I paid for it all."

  • In March 2013, Kimbrel pitched for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.  

  • The winter before 2013 spring training, after completing one of the most impressive seasons ever by a reliever in 2012, Craig spent time reflecting on his accomplishments with the understanding that he may not repeat the previous year's utter dominance. 

    "I went into the start of spring training and the beginning of season telling myself not to set my expectations to where my numbers have to be where they were last year because that is pretty hard," Kimbrel said.

    Kimbrel's statistics are not nearly as eye-popping as they were the previous year, when he struck out more than half of the batters he faced (116 of 231) and compiled a sparkling 1.01 ERA while converting 42 of his 45 save opportunities. Adding to the wonder of his season, the Braves closer did not allow a hit or issue a walk in 32 of his 61 appearances.

    "I'm not looking at my [current] numbers thinking, 'I need to get back to where I was last year,' because what I did last year was pretty amazing," Kimbrel said. "Sitting back and looking at it, it's kind of hard to believe. There was a lot of luck and good timing that goes into that kind of stuff."

    The .186 on-base percentage Kimbrel surrendered last year ranked as the third-best mark posted in a season by a reliever. The only two better marks were notched by Dennis Eckersley in 1990 (.172) and 1989 (.175).  (Bowman - mlb.com - 6/30/2013)

  • Kimbrel was asked if he has any pregame ritual. "A shower," Craig said. "I do a lot of sitting—eight innings—and I don't want to sit in my own sweat."

    Secret talent? "I'm a second-degree black belt," Kimbrel revealed.

    And what was your least realistic New Year's resolution? "To have 5% body fat. I like beer and junk food too much," he said.

  • Craig joined one of the Braves franchise's all-time greats with his July 28, 2013 scoreless ninth inning, matching John Smoltz as the only Atlanta pitchers to record 30 saves in three different seasons.

    Kimbrel was in high school when Smoltz was reinventing himself as one of the best closers in the game, racking up 144 saves between 2002-2004 and posting three of the franchise's top four single-season save totals.

    "How many closers throw five pitches?" Kimbrel said of Smoltz. "It was almost unfair for him to be closing because obviously as a hitter, they eliminate pitches late in the game. The guy's got five pitches, they really can't do that."

    Both players accomplished the feat in three consecutive years, and they can now lay claim to half of the franchise's 30-save seasons in franchise history. (July 28, 2013)

  • Craig has visited Children's Healthcare of Atlanta many times, but the experience never grows old for him. When asked about his visits, he responded, "I love it every year."

    "They're not all baseball fans, but they all know that we're in there to try to make them feel better," Kimbrel said. "And they make us feel better. With what they're going through, if we can put a smile on their faces just by seeing us, our bad days don't seem so bad. And I feel like that's what we all take out of that."

    Kimbrel has visited both with the team and with his wife, Ashley, as part of his partnership with Curing Kids' Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to funding cutting-edge treatments for pediatric cancer.

    Numerous teammates joined Kimbrel. Alex Wood was grateful to take part in the visits. "It's kind of one of those things where you feel a little bit more selfish," Wood said, "because it's almost like they inspire you so much and make you really appreciate how fortunate we are to do what we do and have the loving, caring families, and the health of our families, day in and day out."

    Wood was appreciative to meet several Braves fans who keep up with the team, but he also enjoyed the experience of talking with the patients who do not watch baseball.

    "There's other ones that aren't that interested in it, and those are the ones that really make you feel fortunate to be there and they're allowing us to come in there and spend a few minutes with them and kind of just hang out and show our appreciation," Wood said.

    "Let them know that there's people outside of their families and people at the hospital that are thinking about them and hoping they get well." (Morgan - mlb.com - 7/24/2014)

  • The past few years, the eyes of the baseball world have been on Craig Kimbrel as he mixed jaw-dropping breaking balls with high-octane fastballs. These eyes will also be drawn to the gold cleats that Kimbrel will wear to raise awareness in the fight against pediatric cancer.

    Through his role as the spokesperson for Players Curing Kids Cancer, Kimbrel learned that gold had been adopted as the official color to use with any endeavor that promotes September as Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. After some thought, the Braves closer decided to have Nike design and manufacture the gold shoes he will wear whenever he pitches over the next few weeks.

    "I had the cleats made myself," Kimbrel said. "It took a little bit of wheeling and dealing and ins and outs to get it done, but we were able to get it done, and I think it turned out great," said Kimbrel. (Mark Bowman - MLB.com - 9/5/2014)

    LYDIA

  • Kimbrel's daughter, Lydia Joy, was born in November 2017 with a heart issue that required multiple surgeries.

    March 2018: The Red Sox wore red warm-up T-shirts before a Grapefruit League loss to the split-squad Orioles that read "We Are #LydiaStrong" in support of Craig and his 4-month-old daughter, Lydia Joy, who recently underwent her second heart procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital.

  •  March 19, 2018: It was hard to miss the warmth that greeted Craig Kimbrel on his first day back at 2018 Spring Training after an emotional three-week absence during which he slept in his daughter Lydia Joy's hospital room nightly as she recovered from heart surgery

    "Welcome back, Craig," one fan said as Kimbrel completed his live batting-practice session. 

    "Have a great season, Craig," said another.

    Kimbrel delivered some good news. Lydia Joy, who is 4 months old and has now had two heart surgeries, is making strong improvement. If things stay on their current course, she will have her third and final heart surgery at the age of 3 or 4. 

    Kimbrel said. "She's in a good, comfortable place for me to be down here. If she wasn't, I wouldn't be here. Again, I just want to thank everybody for being so understanding and everything they've done for us."

    There were anxious moments for Craig and his wife, Ashley, in the days and weeks that followed surgery, but Lydia Joy's condition has started to improve by the day.  "In the last week, her recovery has been unbelievable and she's showing great signs and we're very blessed," said Kimbrel. "She's on the way up. It was just two days ago we were pushing her around on the stroller and she was getting close to being her same self. It's very encouraging and unbelievable to see." 

    Kimbrel has reason to believe Lydia Joy is going to live a healthy life. "Absolutely. Her anatomy's great. It takes time for the body to heal," said Kimbrel. "It's unbelievable what infants' and babies' bodies can do. They're a lot stronger than we are. That's a fact. Through this entire process, she's been strong. She's been showing steps of improvement and it's very encouraging.

    Lydia Joy should be released from the hospital in about two weeks. And as the timing works out, that is right around the time Kimbrel and the Red Sox will be coming home to open their season at Fenway Park, which is scheduled for April 5 against the Rays.  And less than a mile from Fenway stands the institution to which Kimbrel will remain forever grateful.

    "Boston Children's is the best hospital for this. And it has been amazing to watch these doctors work and these nurses work," Kimbrel said. "It's an unbelievable team they have there."  (Browne - mlb.com)

  • Sept. 2020: Kimbrel’s five-year run with the Braves was the stuff from which legends are made. While his later career hasn’t panned out the way it started, there was arguably no more dominant closer in the game from 2011 to 2015.

    Let’s take a look back at Kimbrel’s rise to stardom. Craig Kimbrel’s 100-mph fastball makes him a top-100 prospect. Kimbrel grew up in Alabama, where he not only played baseball, but quarterback for his high school football team. He went to Wallace State Community College and as a freshman was absolutely absurd, going 8-0. The Braves drafted Kimbrel in the 33rd round after that 2007 season, but Kimbrel went back to school. After another impressive season in which Kimbrel struck out 123 batters in 81 innings, the Braves made him their third-round pick in the 2008 draft.

    Kimbrel stuck around this time. And the fast track began. The 6-foot, righthanded flamethrower climbed three rungs of the minor league ladder in his 2008 debut. He finished the season with two relief appearances in High-A Myrtle Beach. Altogether, he posted a 0.51 ERA with 10 saves ad 56 strikeouts in 35.1 innings pitched across all three levels.

    He reached Triple-A in 2009 and though he struggled in the Arizona Fall League that autumn, he was named to the Rising Stars team. Entering 2010, Kimbrel was known as a young fireballer with a triple-digit fastball and a nasty curve that generated a ton of swing-and-misses out of the bullpen, albeit a bit wild at times. He was sensational in Gwinnett that season — a 1.62 ERA, 23 saves and 83 strikeouts in 55.2 innings — and was even more impressive in his Atlanta debut. In his first 21 appearances in the bigs, Kimbrel went 4-0 with a 0.44 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 20.2 innings.

    He entered the 2011 season a top-100 prospect in baseball by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. John Sickels had him as the sixth-best prospect in the Braves system. A year later, he’d be the best closer in baseball.

    Let’s talk about some records:

    –Most saves by a rookie before the All Star Break (both National and American League)

    –Fastest Braves pitcher to reach 100 strikeouts (in just 59.1 innings)

    –Most saves by a rookie in a single season (National and American League)

    The end of that season was a rough one for Kimbrel and the Braves, but his accomplishments couldn’t be ignored, becoming the first NL Rookie of the Year to gain all 32 first place votes in a decade. He led all relievers with 127 strikeouts, tied for the NL lead with 46 saves, and tossed 34.2 scoreless innings—the longest stretch in the Majors that season.  (Wayne Cavadi - Sep 28, 2020)

  • The next three seasons were more of the same. Kimbrel led the NL in saves in 2012, 2013 and 2014 (leading the majors with 50 in 2013) while keeping his ERA low and his WHIP even lower. He became one of the most feared pitchers in baseball with a sinking fastball that could saw your bat in half and a notorious stare down that would make even the best hitters think twice.

    For all his accolades and success, Kimbrel was set for a big payday. That made him a casualty of the Braves rebuild and on April 5, 2015 just before the MLB season got underway, Kimbrel was shipped to the San Diego Padres for Austin Riley (I know, I know, but he’s the only one I choose to remember). It’s hard to believe that after all that Kimbrel accomplished in his first four full seasons, he would bounce around as much as he has. Now on his third team in the past six years, Kimbrel will certainly will have some naysayers on how his career will be remembered.

    Kimbrel’s five-year run in Atlanta put him on an unquestionable Hall of Fame trajectory. He had a 1.43 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP, with a 14.8 strikeout-per-9 in 289 innings pitched. His 186 saves (37.2 per year) are still the most in Braves history. He struck out nearly 45 percent of all batters he faced.

    But Kimbrel was never the same after he left Atlanta and is now hardly recognizable as the dominant closer he once was. His velocity is down, trickling more slowly over the years and his knuckle curve doesn’t get the swing-and-miss it once did when it was amongst the best curves in generating whiffs throughout his early career. He did win a World Series as the Red Sox closer in 2018, but his performance was not a memorable one.

    After the World Series, he declined his option and wasn’t signed until roughly halfway through 2019. His walk rate has since continued to climb, while that hard contact has also risen drastically, his renowned soft-contact rates now nearly forgotten. There’s no denying Kimbrel has thrown a ton of innings, currently the active leader in games finished, but it seems at 32 there should be some magic left in that arm.

    Whatever the case, Kimbrel is the active leader in saves with 348, which places him 12th all time. And for a solid five years, he was the most feared closer in the game. And you can make the case he’s the best closer in Braves history as well.  (Wayne Cavadi - Sep 28, 2020)

  • July 2021: Kimbrel was chosen to represent the Cubs in the All-Star Game.

  •  July 12, 2021: Kimbrel finished off Dodgers catcher Will Smith with a curveball that dove low and outside and eluded his swing. The Cubs' closer remained stoic and stone-faced as he walked off the mound in Los Angeles.

    Catcher Willson Contreras pumped his fist hard, burst out of his crouch, removed his mask and jumped excitedly as he made his way to Kimbrel. Teammates poured out of Chicago's dugout and joined the growing mob around the closer.

    After a few moments, Kimbrel figured out he had just finished off a combined no-hitter and broke into a wide smile and laughter on the Dodger Stadium infield.

    "I had no clue," Kimbrel said after making history.  It was a snapshot into the level of dominance on display from Kimbrel as the anchor of the Cubs' bullpen in 2021. The veteran is no stranger to big moments, but delivering in them again took time and effort from Kimbrel, and plenty of patience from the Cubs.

  • In July 2021, Kimbrel was in Denver as an All-Star again, alongside teammate Kris Bryant. The Midsummer Classic is where the hard-throwing closer belongs.

    "I've known him for such a long time," Cubs manager David Ross said. "It's fun to kind of watch the evolution of his career. And still, it's him just doing the same thing he did when he was a rookie in Atlanta."

    Ross was behind the plate for the Braves on May 7, 2010, when Kimbrel made his MLB debut. The pitcher struck out two in one shutout inning against the Phillies. Ross was there again (as a special advisor for the Cubs) in June 2019, watching Kimbrel throw and doing his part in convincing Chicago to sign the free agent.

    And Ross watched as Kimbrel's manager when the pitcher's injury-marred 2019 carried over into the delayed and abbreviated 2020 season. In Kimbrel's first 27 games for the Cubs, he had an 8.48 ERA and was giving up homers and walks at an uncharacteristic and alarming rate.

    After Kimbrel's Aug. 6, 2020 outing, Ross had to give the long-time closer a break from the ninth-inning duties. At that juncture, Kimbrel did not pitch for a week, using the time to focus on some delivery adjustments and to take a mental breather.

    "He was definitely there with me when I wasn't doing so well," Kimbrel said of Ross. "We had a great understanding last year that if I couldn't do my job, obviously I wouldn't be in this spot.

    "And that's what happened. I was able to figure it out."

    Part of that process for the 33-year-old Kimbrel was incorporating more advanced data into his process. He changed his setup over the offseason to include a Rapsodo pitch-tracking system at his home and has worked with the Cubs on balancing feel with analysis.

    "It's a combination," Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. "Now, it's, 'How can we match what you feel with what the data says, and give you some instant feedback of what you're doing?'"

    Heading into the final weekend before the All-Star break, Kimbrel had a 0.81 ERA in 44 innings, dating back to his Aug. 14 return to games in 2020. Among relievers with at least 30 innings over that time period, Kimbrel ranked first in strikeout rate (48.2 percent), strikeout-minus-walk rate (38 percent) and opponents' average (.101).

    Through 33 appearances this season, Kimbrel had a 0.57 ERA with 54 strikeouts against 10 walks in 31 2/3 innings. His 20 saves to that point helped him climb to ninth all-time in career saves (368). Next in Kimbrel's sights is Joe Nathan (377).

    Kimbrel was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2011. He has a World Series ring (2018) and has received Cy Young Award votes (in five seasons) and MVP Award votes (three seasons).

    "Prior to coming to us, he had an amazing career already," Hottovy reminded.

    Among the 30 players with at least 300 saves in baseball history, only Mariano Rivera (13) and Goose Gossage (9) have more All-Star appearances than Kimbrel (eight). This marks his first nod with the Cubs and his first since 2018, when he pitched for Boston.

    "He's come a long way since we signed him," Bryant said, "and he was signing halfway through a season and trying to get comfortable and going through some struggles. "And now, I mean, he's a future Hall of Famer, in my mind. And it's really fun to play alongside him."

    Ross added that Kimbrel's story from the past two years gives a great example for young pitchers to learn from as they encounter their own trials or setbacks.  (J Bastian - MLB.com - July 12, 2021)

    TRANSACTIONS

  • June 2008: Craig signed with the Braves, via scout Brian Bridges, for a bonus of $391,000 after the club drafted him in the third round, out of Wallace State Community College in Dothan, Alabama. 

  • February 17, 2014: The Braves signed Kimbrel to a four-year, $42 million contract that includes a $13 million option for the 2018 season. If the option is exercised and all of the potential bonuses are earned, the package has a maximum value of $58 million.

    Craig gets a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $7 million for 2014, $9 million in 2015, $11 million in 2016 and $13 million in 2017. The Braves have a $13 million option for 2018 with a $1 million buyout.

    Kimbrel's contract is the largest ever given to a closer who has not yet become a free agent. It also provides him the largest guarantee and average annual value ever given to any first-year arbitration-eligible pitcher.

  • April 4, 2015: The Padres sent OFs Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin to the Braves, along with prospects Matt Wisler and Jordan Paroubeck. The Braves sent Kimbrel and OF Melvin Upton Jr. to the Padres.

  • November 13, 2015: The Red Sox sent to the Padres OF Manuel Margot, SS Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje, and LHP Logan Allen. In return, they received Kimbrel.

  • November 2, 2017: The Red Sox exercised their 2018 club option on Kimbrel. Kimbrel is a relative bargain—his option will pay him $13 million. Craig will be a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, unless he signs an extension.

  • October 29, 2018: Craig elected free agency.

  • June 5, 2019: Kimbrel and the Cubs agreed to a three-year, $43 million contract. Kimbrel no longer had draft pick compensation linked to his upcoming contract, and Chicago had unexpected monetary breathing room to help pull off this kind of blockbuster deal. "You'd have to lay out a track there for him to get ready again," Maddon said. "Probably a minimum of three weeks."

  • July 30, 2021: The Cubs traded RHP Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox for RHP Codi Heuer and 2B Nick Madrigal.
Pitching
  • Kimbrel has nasty action on his 95-100 mph rising four-seam FASTBALL and a very good 86-89 mph CURVEBALL (though some call it a slider). It's a very good two-pitch mix.

    His heater runs inside on righthanded hitters before exploding as it reaches the plate. It is seemingly the perfect fastball. He has the perfect spin rate, the perfect velocity and the perfect release.

    After you play catch with Craig, you have to re-tie the laces on your glove, because they get loose. Imagine trying to hit it!

    Kimbrel hides the ball longer from the hitter, and when he keeps his hand directly behind the ball from his low-three quarters delivery, he gets that "perfect" spin on the ball. It is true south-to-north backspin—the greatest gravity-fighting spin. The appears to hop up to the hitter because it doesn't sink the way normal fastball does. (portions via Tom Verducci).

  • 2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 68.7% of the time and Curve 31.3%.

    2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 68.5% of the time, and his Curveball 31.5% of the time.

    2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 64.7% of the time and his Curve 35.1% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 97.3 mph and Curve 86.8 mph.

    2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 66.6% of the time and his Curve 33.4% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 96.4 mph and Curve 86 mph.

    2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 64.2% of the time and his Curve 35.8% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 97.2 mph and Curve 86.4 mph.

  • Craig has a lightning-quick right arm even though he is not quite six feet tall. He has a low-arm-angle delivery and repertoire. With his delivery, he looks like a surfer on his board, riding a good wave.

    "They always joke that I look like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, with those short arms, when I'm throwing," Kimbrel said with a laugh.

    That characterization is more a reflection on Craig's method of delivery than the length of the arms on his stocky, muscular frame. Because of the arm slot and the way he naturally releases the baseball, opposing hitters can't get a good look at the 98 mph heater until it's much too late.

  • Kimbrel comes at hitters from a low three-quarters arm slot. His low release point helps him keep the ball down in the zone and makes him a very good groundball pitcher. Though he is short, at 5-foot-11, Craig is built strong and has lightning-fast arm speed.

    In 2010 spring training, at the suggestion of closer Billy Wagner, Craig dropped his windup. With his role centered on the late innings, When there are often runners on base, the righthander now works exclusively from the stretch in order to help maintain his mechanics.

    "It helps me repeat my delivery a lot more consistently," Kimbrel said.

    Wagner also stressed  the importance of deploying his heat more intelligently. "Understanding that if you have a better chance of getting the guy behind the current hitter out, you don't have to go right at the current guy," Kimbrel explained. That lesson has paid off. (September 2011)

  • During the 2011 season, Giants outfielder Cody Ross said of Kimbrel: "He comes set, turns, and it does look like he's throwing out of his armpit. He throws across his body, and it's tough to pick up—that's the thing."

  • Kimbrel is more than a rear-back-and-fire guy. He understands the importance of consistent mechanics and studies video of his pitching motion. He knows his velocity and control feed off a balanced delivery.

    Opposing hitters marvel at how long Kimbrel stays on his back leg in mid-windup, then generating power toward the plate by driving straight downhill. He isn't prone to spinning off toward the first base dugout, as righthanded pitchers often do when they overthrow.

  • D-Back Aaron Hill has studied Kimbrel's leg drive and marvels at his balance. "He stays on his leg a long time and he's got a power arm," Hill said in 2013. "When you have velocity like that, you still have to pitch and he pitches."

    Craig moves the ball around the zone, changes the eye level for hitters by throwing high and low, and can pitch backwards with a curveball as his first pitch, not just his last.  (Pat Glier - Baseball Digest - September, 2013)

  • May 9, 2013: Still 17 days shy of his 25th birthday, Kimbrel was the second-youngest pitcher to reach 100 saves. Francisco Rodriguez became the youngest when he reached the century mark 246 days after his 24th birthday.

  • May 18, 2014: Kimbrel became the youngest pitcher (25 years and 355 days) to record 150 saves, and he did so in the fourth-fewest amount of save opportunities (167). The three pitchers who needed fewer opportunities were Eric Gagne (156), John Smoltz (163) and Joe Nathan (166).

  • In 2013, Kimbrel joined an exclusive group when he became the 10th different Major League pitcher to record 50 saves in a season. John Smoltz is the only other pitcher who accomplished the feat while playing for the Braves.

  • Kimbrel's fastball:  "It’s weird,” said Justin Upton. “Some guys have a softer-looking 98 or 99. But his is explosive. It has extra life to it. It gets to the zone, and it almost looks like it speeds up. It’s got a little extra gear to it.

    Upton has faced Kimbrel four times and struck out only once. The Mets’ David Wright has whiffed three times in four tries. He called Kimbrel’s fastball electric, then apologized for the overused term. Kimbrel, it seems, harnesses the wattage of a power plant.

    “His stuff is truly electric out there,” Wright said. “You don’t see too many guys throwing 98, and you definitely don’t see too many guys that make it look as easy as he does, with the life. And it’s not like he’s 7 feet tall out there.”

  • In 2014, Kimbrel won the Trevor Hoffman Award, which honors the outstanding National League reliever.

  • In 2017, Kimbrel received the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award.

    SAVE NUMBER 300

  • May 5, 2018: Kimbrel nailed down his 300th save, becoming the fastest pitcher in history to reach that milestone. He returned to the clubhouse after pinning down a 6-5 win for the Red Sox over the Rangers at Globe Life Park. Kimbrel's teammates and coaches were all there waiting for him, and they celebrated his accomplishment. 

    "They clapped for a long time," Kimbrel said. "It was nice to have these guys behind me and to show their appreciation for me. Everything I do every night is to go out there and make sure what they do counts, so it was really neat for them to be waiting on me. They're waiting on me a lot, usually for a bus." (I Browne - MLB.com - May 6, 2018)

  • The warmth from his teammates was the recognition not only for what Kimbrel has done in his career, but also for what he has gone through over the last several months. Kimbrel's daughter Lydia Joy was born last November with a heart defect, and had her first surgery at four days old. There would be another surgery in March, and Kimbrel missed much of Spring Training as he helped his wife Ashley care for Lydia. 

    "I think he got emotional," manager Alex Cora said. "We've been going through a lot together as a team. There's been more positive things happening to him off the field lately than on the field and he's been great on the field. That gives us a lot of energy.

    "She was with us on the last day of the homestand and she was smiling, and the way he's carrying her is—it's unreal what he's doing to be honest. For him to be locked in here with us and giving his best while everything was happening with us in Spring Training and everything that is happening with his life is unreal."

    Kimbrel, who is building credentials that could one day land him in the Hall of Fame, is the 29th pitcher in history to record 300 saves. But Kimbrel was the swiftest to reach the feat by appearances (494), save opportunities (330) and age (29).

    Fittingly, the milestone occurred on a significant anniversary. "It feels like forever and also feels like it's flown by," Kimbrel said. "Eight years ago today, I got called up for the first time, so it's neat to go get my 300th save on the same day. I've been a part of a lot of great teams. If it wasn't for that, we wouldn't be talking today, so I'm very grateful for that." (I Browne - MLB.com - May 6, 2018)

  • 2018: Kimbrel's knuckle-curveball was voted one of the nastiest pitches in baseball by MLB players.

    Closers typically wow us with their fastball, and Kimbrel has definitely delivered there in his great career (his fastball did get one vote). But it's this beastly breaking ball with devastating downward movement that has made him such a consistent late-inning force. Kimbrel got whiffs on 55.6 percent of swings against his curve in 2018, limiting opponents to five hits in 61 at-bats (.082) that ended on it, per Statcast.

    "That [pitch] combined with the fastball is a deadly combo," Ben Zobrist said. "I could make contact [off the curve], but I don't know how people drive that." (Anthony Castrovince- MLB.com-January 7, 2019)

  • Oct 4, 2019: The only batter that Kimbrel faced in his offseason before signing with the Cubs in June was a silhouette carved out of plywood in his barn. As it turned out, firing baseballs into a net rather than having a normal Spring Training proved problematic.

    On the final day of Chicago's season—a campaign damaged by Kimbrel's struggles in the ninth—the closer was already looking five months into the future. With a contract in hand, Kimbrel was eager to turn the page on a disastrous 2019 with the goal of using 2020 to show it was all a circumstances-riddled fluke.

    "I was just talking about it with someone else, saying it's going to be exciting next year rolling into camp," Kimbrel said. "Being around these guys for a couple months now, and having a whole [Spring Training] camp next year, I'm going to help these guys out in any way I can, and obviously learn from them. You can never stop learning."

    That last point was something Kimbrel reiterated in multiple responses. The main hope for the Cubs right now is simple: A normal Spring Training will equal better results for Kimbrel. The right-hander believes that, too. As a free agent last offseason, Kimbrel found a market that froze and the ice did not crack and melt until June, when he agreed to a three-year, $43 million contract with the Cubs.

    The 31-year-old Kimbrel knows there is more to it than simply expecting that a return to the usual spring routine will fix all that went awry this past season. The closer pointed to other emerging arms in the Chicago bullpen—Kyle Ryan, Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck—and noted how they used analytics to forge impressive results.

    "It's a very, very talented group of young arms," Kimbrel said. "I wouldn't even say young, but young experience-wise. They have really good stuff. They've really been able to put stuff together with all the new data over the last year and become great pitchers."

    Diving into the data is something Kimbrel also plans on doing in the coming months.

    "There are things that I've learned that has integrated itself into the game over the last three, four, five years," Kimbrel said. "I think I'm going to dig into it a little bit more, look at the numbers a little bit more, pay attention to that a little bit more, just better verse myself in this game and try to get better. (J Bastian - MLB.com - Oct 4, 2019)

  • 2020 Season: Kimbrel had some significant issues at the start of the shortened season, but they were relatively brief. He struggled with control when the season began and gave up runs in each of his first four outings. Then he had a blown save, the only one last season, at Cincinnati on Aug. 29.

    In those five games, Kimbrel gave up 7 earned runs in 3.1 innings pitched, with 7 hits and 8 walks.

    Outside of those five games, Kimbrel didn't give up a run in 12 innings pitched, with 24 strikeouts. In the month of September, he took the mound eight times and allowed just 3 baserunners, on three singles. (Mike McGraw - Feb. 23, 2021)

  • April 9, 2021:  It was a vintage fastball from the fingertips of Craig Kimbrel. From Bryan Reynolds' perspective, the pitch probably appeared destined for the heart of the strike zone. As Reynolds initiated his swing in Pittsburgh, the heater began that classic Kimbrel rise. And the fastball kept climbing until it popped into the glove of catcher Willson Contreras, beyond Reynolds' bat and above the top of the strike zone.

    "Craig's in a good place," Cubs manager David Ross said recently. "He's on the attack."

    That strikeout of Reynolds that sealed Chicago's 4-2 victory also marked the 350th save of Kimbrel's career. Names like Randy Myers, Rollie Fingers and John Wetteland are in his rear-view mirror. The likes of Troy Percival (358), Jeff Reardon (367) and Jonathan Papelbon (368) are next in Kimbrel's sights.

    Reaching that milestone was more of an inevitability than a surprise for Kimbrel, but the veteran closer's meteoric ascent up the all-time saves chart was slowed in recent years.

    Right now, following two turbulent tours with the Cubs—seasons with obstacles both in and out of Kimbrel's control—Kimbrel is looking like himself once again. He has struck out 9 of the 14 batters he has faced, with no hits allowed through four outings. (J Bastian - MLB.com - April 9, 2021)

  • On Sept. 19, 2010, Craig, then just 22 years old, hit the first milestone of his big league career as he locked down the first save in the Majors.  Kimbrel added another milestone to the long list he’s put together in his career on May 26, 2021, passing Troy Percival for 11th place on MLB’s all-time saves list with save No. 359 in the Cubs’ 4-1 win over the Pirates.

    Few could have known back in 2010 what Kimbrel would go on to accomplish in the Majors, as he continues to move up the all-time saves leaderboard while being a seven-time All-Star, a two-time Reliever of the Year and a four-time National League saves leader. Well, at least one person had an idea of what Kimbrel could do, according to his current manager, David Ross.  “Look, I saw this guy early on when he was a rookie, and what he was doing, I mean, it's no shock,” Ross said.  “This guy, the performance he's been able to have consistently, I think the shocking part is just to be able to do it for this long.  I don't know if you ever really have that on your radar, but he's been really good for a really long time.”

    Kimbrel’s newest milestone came in the middle of his resurgent 2021 season.  Following two disappointing seasons in 2019 and ‘20, in which he posted a combined ERA of 6.00 over 41 relief appearances, Kimbrel has reemerged as the lockdown closer the Cubs expected when they signed him in early June 2019.

    Kimbrel has a 0.86 ERA through 21 appearances on the year.  He’s converted 11 of 13 save opportunities and he’s recorded 35 strikeouts compared to just eight walks.

    When he tied Percival’s mark on May 25, he also showed how hyper-focused he’s been on the mound.  Kimbrel left a fastball high on the first pitch of the ninth inning, and Cole Tucker ripped it to right for a leadoff double.  Kimbrel bounced right back though, inducing a flyout, a strikeout and a groundout to strand Tucker at second and pick up save No. 358. The same situation played out on the 26th, with Ben Gamel hitting a double to center to lead off the ninth.  But once again, Kimbrel retired the next three batters to close out the Cubs’ win. “My job is coming here every day ready to do my job whenever I'm asked to do it,” Kimbrel said. “I've been able to do it for a long time now, and it's an honor to get to where I am.”  (Herrera - mlb.com)

  • June 17, 2021:  Craig recorded his 19th save of 2021, giving him 367 in his career. That moved him into a tie for 10th place on the all-time saves list with Jeff Reardon. His next save will move Kimbrel into a ninth-place tie with Jonathan Papelbon. Kimbrel is currently the active career saves leader.

  • June 24, 2021: On the 66th anniversary of Sandy Koufax‘s MLB debut, the Cubs’ pitching staff threw its first ever combined no-hitter in franchise history at Dodger Stadium. The final out of the 4-0 Cubs win was recorded by closer Craig Kimbrel. For the MLB’s active saves leader, making history wasn’t on his mind. In fact, he was not even aware his team had no-hit the Dodgers up until that point. 

    “I had no clue when I came into the game that we had a no-hitter,” Kimbrel said, per MLB.com.

    Cubs starting hurler Zach Davies pitched the first six innings, and was followed by Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin, and Kimbrel. The four pitchers combined to walk eight batters in the no-hit effort. (Logan Lockhart)

  • July 12, 2021: Ross watched as Kimbrel's manager when the pitcher's injury-marred 2019 carried over into the delayed and abbreviated 2020 season. In Kimbrel's first 27 games for the Cubs, he had an 8.48 ERA and was giving up homers and walks at an uncharacteristic and alarming rate.

    After Kimbrel's Aug. 6, 2020, outing, Ross had to give the long-time closer a break from the ninth-inning duties. At that juncture, Kimbrel did not pitch for a week, using the time to focus on some delivery adjustments and to take a mental breather.

    "He was definitely there with me when I wasn't doing so well," Kimbrel said of Ross. "We had a great understanding last year that if I couldn't do my job, obviously I wouldn't be in this spot.

    "And that's what happened. I was able to figure it out."

    Part of that process for the 33-year-old Kimbrel was incorporating more advanced data into his process. He changed his setup over the offseason to include a Rapsodo pitch tracking system at his home and has worked with the Cubs on balancing feel with analysis.

    "It's a combination," Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. "Now, it's, 'How can we match what you feel with what the data says, and give you some instant feedback of what you're doing?'"

    Heading into the final weekend before the All-Star break, Kimbrel had a 0.81 ERA in 44.1 innings dating back to his Aug. 14, 2020 return to games. Among relievers with at least 30 innings over that time period, Kimbrel ranked first in strikeout rate (48.2 percent), strikeout-minus-walk rate (38 percent) and opponents' average (.101).

    Through 33 appearances this season, Kimbrel had a 0.57 ERA with 54 strikeouts against 10 walks in 31.2 innings. His 20 saves to that point helped him climb to ninth all-time in career saves (368). Next in Kimbrel's sights is Joe Nathan (377). (J Bastian - MLB.com - July 12, 2021)

  • August 16, 2021:  After 12 seasons, 630 games and 613 innings, Craig picked up his 1,000th career strikeout.  And the strikeout had meaning, as opposed to some throw-away out with a big lead or a big deficit. 

    With runners on second and third and one out in the eighth, Kimbrel threw six pitches to Matt Chapman and none of them were in the strike zone, per Statcast.  But Chapman swung wildly at three knuckle-curves and punched out. 

    Kimbrel fanned the side, giving him 75 strikeouts in 44.1 innings between the Cubs and White Sox this season.

  • 2021 Season: Kimbrel posted a 5.09 ERA and 4.56 FIP in 24 games with the White Sox. That came after he had a 0.49 ERA and 1.10 FIP in 39 games with the Cubs, a period that also saw him convert 23 of 25 save attempts. 

  • As of the start of the 2022 season, Kimbrel's career record was: 35-29 with a 2.18 ERA, having allowed only 52 home runs and 347 hits in 628 innings, striking out 1,026, with 372 saves in 415 opportunities (89.6%).
Career Injury Report
  • Summer 2006: Kimbrel was helping his father install wire in a house that was under construction when 800 pounds of Sheetrock fell on his left foot, snapping it nearly in half.

    "Only bone that didn't break was my pinky toe," Kimbrel says.

    For the next six months Kimbrel was forced to throw from his knees. He became so proficient at it that he could cover the length of a football field.

    "It really strengthened his lower back muscles and his arm," says Wallace State Community College's long-time baseball coach Randy Putman. By the time he was again upright, Kimbrel's fastball had improved from the high 80s to the mid-90s, and he was on his way to being a third-round draft pick in 2008.

    "Breaking my foot was probably one of the best things to ever happen to me," he says.

  • July 7-31, 2016: Kimbrel was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his career. Craig had a left knee medial meniscus tear. It was determined that Kimbrel would undergo surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear in his left knee.

    July 11, 2016: Craig underwent successful surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear in his left knee. Head team orthopedist Dr. Peter Asnis performed the surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. 

  • August 5-18, 2019: The Cubs placed Kimbrel on the 10-day injured list with right knee inflammation. 


    Kimbrel said that he is confident he could pitch through the injury but doesn’t want to risk making it worse
    . Kimbrel felt discomfort and underwent an MRI exam, which showed the inflammation.

    “Instead of making a bigger problem than it is, we’ll let it calm down and get back out there,” Kimbrel said. “It’s the smart decision to let it rest.

    GM Jed Hoyer agreed.

  • Sept 2-19, 2019: .Kimbrel was on the IL with right elbow inflammation.