As the Chicago Cubs prepare for their National League Wild Card series, Craig Kimbrel is returning to form.
Kimbrel was a nightmare for the Cubs after signing a three-year deal with the team in June of 2019. Kimbrel posted an ERA of 6.53 in 23 appearances for the Cubs during the 2019 season. Most notably, Kimbrel’s struggles during the final month of the 2019 season, 23.14 ERA in 3 appearances, played a key part in the Cubs’ collapse.
Despite Kimbrel’s struggles in 2019, the Cubs turned to the veteran to be the closer at the start of the 2020 season. The move backfired almost instantly for the Cubs as Kimbrel posted a 27.00 ERA during the first month of the 2020 season and was replaced as the Cubs closer.
While the Cubs turned to Jeremy Jeffress to be their closer, Kimbrel was forced to work on his mechanics while appearing in low-stress situations. Kimbrel saw mixed results during the month of August as he posted an ERA of 6.75 in 6.2 innings pitched.
While Kimbrel showed mixed results during the month of August, he took a significant step forward during the month of September. In fact, Kimbrel looked liked the future hall of fame closer that the Cubs originally thought they were signing in 2019. During the month of September this season, Kimbrel was nearly perfect as he did not allow a single run while striking out 13 batters and letting up 3 hits.
As was said at the beginning of the season, if the Cubs are going to have a deep run in the post-season this October, Kimbrel is going to be an important piece to the Cubs’ bullpen.
The fact is that post-season baseball requires a team to have two if not three shutdown relievers available in the bullpen. Reason being that if the starting pitcher can provide the team with a quality start of at least 6 innings, the team can turn to those shutdown relievers for the final three innings of the game.
Kimbrel regained his shutdown form during the month of September. Looking past the fact that he did not allow a run, opposing hitters are only hitting .125 against him during the month of September and Kimbrel has struck out more than half of the batters (54.2 percent) that he has faced. Even more impressive is that Kimbrel did not walk a single batter during the final month of the regular season.
An effective bullpen with elite relief pitchers are often the difference between the two teams that make the World Series and the teams that are eliminated. With Craig Kimbrel returning to his elite form, the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen is poised to be a strength for the team as they open the post-season against the Miami Marlins on Wednesday.