4. How Much Of An Impact On The Bullpen Does Craig Kimbrel Make?
Oh boy! A bona fide closer with an odd, broken-winged crane of a stare in move on the mound? I like it. He seems less insane and prone to violence than Jonathan Papelbon, but that unique mound mannerism reminds me of the Papelbot somehow.
He has quite an impressive resumé, too! In just five full seasons, Kimbrel has 225 saves with a 1.63 ERA and 14.5 K/9. He saves 90.7 percent of his opportunities, which is nice, regardless of how problematic the save rule is.
So, will the presence of a dominant, in-his-prime closer help reinvigorate the bullpen? Well, I don’t really have the answer to that, but I do think Kimbrel will be nothing but a positive influence. If the ninth-inning guy is a near lock (only Trevor Rosenthal and Mark Melancon had a higher save percentage in 2015), then your middle-inning arms should be just that much more confident. Junichi Tazawa clearly struggled trying to replace the injured Koji Uehara as the closer in August and September. Otherwise, Tazawa was a solid eighth-inning guy. Can he return to that role, maybe in tandem with Uehara, and return to form?
If nothing else, when the Sox have a lead going into the eighth or ninth, the presence of Kimbrel should essentially back everything up an inning for the rest of the ‘pen and the starting staff.
With a career 0.5 HR/9 allowed, it seems doubtful that Kimbrel will be blowing a bunch of late, close games on big homers to guys like Jose Bautista. All of these considerations point to a positive impact.