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Craig Kimbrel And Jonny Venters In The Ninth Inning For The Braves

Craig Kimbrel seems to be getting some attention these days after the AJC opened some eyes on him in December. It's only fitting considering he is 22 years old and is about to take over a big role for the Atlanta Braves (not taking over 100%, mind you, but you get the point). We received a couple of solid links on the young hurler today.

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Jack Moore at FanGraphs is astounded by Kimbrel. He mentions little but Kimbrel's strikeout numbers, which are astounding, but he fails to mention the walks that go with it. I think the entire point of the post was that he is astounded by his strikout rates, however, and he is correct. Carlos Marmol comparisons are being thrown around, and I think that could be a pretty safe bet.

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However, another factor not mentioned in Moore's post is the bullpen situation. Fredi Gonzalez has already made it known he intends to use Kimbrel and Jonny Venters in matchups based on righties and lefties, and Venters could very well receive some save opportunities. I wouldn't bank on Kimbrel coming out of the pen in the ninth for every save, and I wouldn't bank on him being a big fantasy option.

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This is reflected in the second link, via Eno Sarris at Bloomberg Sports. I agree with his statements on Kimbrel's walk rates, but I disagree with where Venters enters the discussion. He views Venters as having poor splits based on K/BB, and while I do agree they are significantly different, his other stats don't spell complete disaster against right-handed batters. A FIP of 3.06 against RHB doesn't compare well to 1.97 against LHB, but it isn't terrible. He didn't give up any home runs against RHB. His line drive percentage was lower against RHB at 14.7% compared to 16% against LHB, and he induced a lot more grounders against RHB at 73.1%.

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While Venters may be more suited to facing a few more left-handed batters, he shouldn't be relegated to that strict duty, and I don't think he will since he is the best option for set-up man. Kimbrel can take 100% closing duties with a hot start to the season, but a realistic prediction is Kimbrel and Venters swapping out the role based on who they face in the ninth inning. Both pitchers will provide some great innings and entertainment for Braves fans for several years.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.