Who saw Kimbrel-as-rookie-of-the-year coming? Well …

Gotta love the hermit-crab stance. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Gotta love the hermit-crab stance. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Not to say I’m smart or anything — we all know better — but I wasn’t surprised that Craig Kimbrel beat Freddie Freeman more than 2-to-1 in voting for the National League rookie of the year. (Kimbrel had 160 points, which is the maximum; Freeman, who finished second, had 70.)

I wasn’t surprised because having been a card-carrying member of the BBWAA since 1984, I’ve done this voting-for-awards thing and I know a bit about how baseball writers work. Maybe this gave me an unfair advantage, but when you’re as lousy at predictions as I am you need all the help you can get.

(A note: I haven’t done the voting-for-awards thing lately. The AJC decided a few years ago that its writers shouldn’t vote on yearly awards.)

Baseball writers look at numbers first. (Remember, a baseball writer can’t watch every inning of every team’s games.) When a baseball writer sees Freeman’s numbers, he/she thinks: “The guy hit .282 with 21 homers and 77 RBIs — that’s a really good rookie year.” When the same writer sees Kimbrel’s numbers, he/she thinks: “He had eight more saves than any rookie closer ever — that’s a record-setting rookie year.”

We had the Kimbel-or-Freeman discussion in this space back in August, and I noted then that I’d vote for Kimbrel if I had a vote. A majority of you disagreed. (Check the poll accompanying that post. Freeman took 64 percent of the who-should-be-ROY vote.) The case for Freeman hinged on him playing nine innings everyday, and that’s a strong argument. But those of us who follow baseball for a living put a high priority on that one inning a closer works, and in September we saw why.

Kimbrel was nearly flawless until the final month, and then three blown saves — the Albert Pujols single in St. Louis that touched off the Cardinals’ grandstand finish; the Omar Infante homer in Florida that was the worst loss of the year, and the squandered lead against Philadelphia in Game No. 162 — proved the difference between making the playoffs and being known as the team that couldn’t hold an 8 1/2-game lead. If a closer does his job, he makes that one inning look routine. If he doesn’t, he’s seen as the reason his team lost.

For that reason, not many rookies are entrusted with the job. Even Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer ever, began as John Wetteland’s set-up man. Kimbrel was not only entrusted with it but he handled it beautifully until the very end. And after the loss in Game No. 162 he handled it like a 15-year professional, saying he’d let his emotions overpower him.

But back to the voting part: I was fairly sure in August that baseball writers would look more favorably on Kimbrel’s season than Freeman’s, and sure enough they did. All 32 who voted had Kimbrel as the first choice. Freeman played every day and was very good; Kimbrel was, on the record, the best rookie closer ever. In a baseball writer’s mind, that’s an easy call.

By Mark Bradley

48 comments Add your comment

NC Dawg

November 15th, 2011
11:47 am

Mark Bradley

November 15th, 2011
11:49 am

Kudos yet again to Mr. November, NC Dawg.

DC

November 15th, 2011
11:51 am

Never understood why AJC won’t let its writers vote on yearly awards…did the AJC ever give a reasoning behind it MB?

Alex

November 15th, 2011
11:55 am

Way to pat your own back Mark

DawgFan

November 15th, 2011
11:56 am

I still would vote for Freeman over Kimbrel. Nothing against Kimbrel, but Freeman played nine innings a game, every game. Kimbrel would work one inning every other game or so. Gonzalez overworked te bullpen and that hurt the team down the stretch.

But pitchers have their own award (Cy Young), which is why I don’t like pitchers being considered for the MVP award. Maybe in thirty years time we’ll have the Feliz-Kimbrel Award, given to the top performing rookie pitcher.

dean

November 15th, 2011
11:57 am

Either pick would have been worthy. 2 good young men who appreciate the opportunity they have worked for.

Rickster

November 15th, 2011
12:09 pm

I’m sure that the reason that the AJC won’t allow their sportswriters to vote of yearly awards is because they didn’t want the writers keeping all the payola for themselves. The AJC wanted its cut, the writers didn’t want to share.

Mark Bradley

November 15th, 2011
12:11 pm

Yes. The AJC wants its writers to report on the news, not to be involved in making the news.

Jamaaliver

November 15th, 2011
12:24 pm

MB:

That last soundbite about ‘making the news’ sounds like a company line I don’t think you buy. :)

Here’s hoping we won’t have to rely on Kimbrel as much next season with a stronger, healthier starting rotation and an offense that is able to take some pressure of our bullpen.

Delbert D.

November 15th, 2011
12:26 pm

Mark, the AJC writers in part *do* make the news, in the sense of contributing to it. It’s the editorials and especially the blog posts that drive some of the readers nuts, creating 2-days long verbal rage contests. How would you feel if you had to deliver your blogs in person before a crowd of hundreds of people in the street? The ensuing violence might help thin out the pathologically impaired and do the human species a service.

David Granger

November 15th, 2011
12:29 pm

Glad to see a fine young player get honored. Hope he takes the award as a challenge to continuously PROVE he deserved it, and not at something to “celebrate”.
It would be nice to see the Braves FINALLY get a closer who has a good, long career with us. For some reason, that position has been the kiss of death. We had one closer who looked promising…overworked him…traded him away where he won a Cy Young award for another team. We’ve had closers who had good half-seasons, then fell apart. We had one who consistently threw 100 mph and was a lock-down, game-over pitcher…then he musta shook hands with Steve Sax, because he wents nuts and couldn’t throw a strike to save his life. And we had another flame-thrower…a Georgia boy…who was also a lights-out closer. Then he ran his mouth off to a NY Times reporter, and became a pariah.
That closer position has been our “Bermuda Triangle”.

Ted M

November 15th, 2011
12:49 pm

the Braves are trading Prado for delmon young

Ted M

November 15th, 2011
12:57 pm

Delmon Young has gotten so fat. He was horrible beyond belief in the playoffs this year. DY is why the tigers lost to the rangers.

Ted M

November 15th, 2011
1:08 pm

They got the ROY voting right.

But I hope Wren doesn’t trade for Young.

robdawg08

November 15th, 2011
1:11 pm

You writers should correlate potential blogs. Mark, you & DOB say basically the same thing about Kimbrel. Mix it up.

DePort

November 15th, 2011
1:14 pm

Up to just a minute ago … I would have voted for Freeman … But I do believe you changed my mind… I see a record setting rookie should get the rookie of the year…great points!

T-Bone

November 15th, 2011
1:19 pm

Mark, I understand you explanation of why the AJC won’t let you vote. But that should be the aim of every baseball writer . . .and the awards are voted on (and have been since the beginning) by none other than baseball writers. Were these awards started with a conflict of interest in mind? I don’t think so.

I think the AJC should let you (and the others on staff) vote.

And, oh yeah, way to go, Kimbrel. You deserve it. Now if we can just figure out how to get another bat in this line-up . . .

Naboo the Enigma

November 15th, 2011
1:39 pm

So if the AJC pays it’s reporters to report on the news then why does Schultz get a paycheck? Or is his title actually “blogger”?

nique

November 15th, 2011
1:40 pm

After looking at Delmon’s stats, I’d rather have Prado in LF than DY. Mark – how would that trade improve us?

Nativebird

November 15th, 2011
1:51 pm

Really great year….for a closer. However, they should have their own Award set. For example, the next best award for a closer should be: Setup up Man of the Year. Oh, and we can’t forget, The Long Reliever of the Year Award. and then of course, we need a “Rookie” category for each of those….and therefore we can’t forget to provide a Gold Glove Award Reliever, and another GG for each of the categories. NO WAY A GUY THAT THROWS AN INNING in each ball game should ever get ANY Player awards…..ever.

Mark (another one)

November 15th, 2011
1:52 pm

I like the outcome, Kimbrel followed by Freeman. After Kimbrel’s sweep, the best Freeman could get was 96 points and he received 70. Pretty damn good.

I believe the AJC edict about writers voting had to do with the football rankings and the BCS. Its a shame as most writers know their sport better than the fans, they take it more seriously than the coaches or players, and it harms the local teams when a paper makes a decision like this.

Also, let’s face it. Columnists write their opinions all the time. The only impact of the AJC’s decision is that those opinions won’t turn into votes.

Kerryb

November 15th, 2011
2:05 pm

I saw an earlier post that stated that they would have given the award to Freeman and that pitchers have their own awards. That’s true for the MVP and CY Young awards but the ROY award is different from them. I don’t have a problem giving the award to Kimbrel. Matter of fact it wouldn’t have bothered me if either one of them won it. Yea, Freddie played everyday and had a great season but I don’t think the Braves would have even had a chance to to be up with a lead to lose in September if it wasn’t for Kimbrel saving all of those games. Braves fans should feel confident for the future. Heyward finished second last year, Kimbrel won this year with Freddie finishing second. Tehran could win it next year. The future is bright.

Halberstram

November 15th, 2011
2:06 pm

Am I reading this wrong? Also, misspelling of Kimbrel’s name in the hyperlink.

We had the Kimbrel-or-Freeman discussion in this space back in August, and I noted then that I’d vote for Freeman if I had a vote. A majority of you disagreed. (Check the poll accompanying that post. Freeman took 64 percent of the who-should-be-ROY vote.)

Sonny Clusters

November 15th, 2011
2:14 pm

We was glad to find out how baseball writers think because we have been around some that don’t think very deep thougths. When we was growing up there was a beat writer in our neighborhood and our mama made us come in the house when he was out in the yard. That’s why we was always wary of beat writers and what they think. As for us, we are okay with Kimbrel winning Rookie of the Year and we hope he stays like he is and doesn’t join Buck Commanders and get soft.

1eyedJack

November 15th, 2011
2:21 pm

The Braves farm system has been pretty productive. All about scouting.

1eyedJack

November 15th, 2011
2:24 pm

Sonny Clusters, I think I lived down the street from that guy. Did he steal women’s underwear of the clotheslines at night and hide ‘em in an abandoned chicken coop?

Spud

November 15th, 2011
2:24 pm

Good news for Kimbrel! He deserves ROY award. Prado for Young?!?! I’d rather have Prado. Young looks very average and makes almost $6M.

1eyedJack

November 15th, 2011
2:26 pm

Sonny Clusters, I believe I lived down the street from that guy. He stole women’s drawers off clotheslines at night and hid them in an old chicken coop.

1eyedJack

November 15th, 2011
2:28 pm

“When we was growing up there was a beat writer in our neighborhood and our mama made us come in the house when he was out in the yard.”

Did he steal women’s underwear off the clothes line and hide it in an old chicken coop?

I think I know that guy.

urban redneck

November 15th, 2011
3:19 pm

wow. i am dumber for reading this. i will never get these 90 seconds back.

Techman

November 15th, 2011
4:26 pm

wasn’t the St Louis game the worst game? It was a 2 game swing in the standings. We could’ve lost in the playoffs if not for that one game.

Kimbrel was also 4th in the league in blown saves. Not saying I don’t like him – he was a rookie and I’m looking forward to him getting better – but I thought Freeman was the much bigger contributor to the team.

Felix

November 15th, 2011
4:42 pm

The AJC policy which prevents you from voting is one of the dumbest policy I’ve ever heard of. Some have been a pansy pencil neck, wearing suspenders and a 3 piece suit who came up with something so stupid.

rugburn

November 15th, 2011
5:56 pm

i think the “save” stat is very over-rated. the whole 7th, 8th and closer thing is just managers’ way of deflecting blame for bad managing. what did they really manage by putting the 7th inning guy in, then the 8th and then the closer? they have a built in excuse when something goes wrong.
“i went with my guy” . managing would involve looking at the hitters and situations not just blindly putting someone in based on inning number. all pitcher’s are not “on” everyday. by making this many changes, you pretty well insure that you find the one who is “off”. if it is the closer that is off, you have already used everyone that you trust so you have to leave him in to blow the game. game 162 for example. plus, over the course of the season you wear them out to the point that they lose some or all effectiveness.

BAMA dude

November 15th, 2011
6:23 pm

Something doesn’t add up here…

I noted then that I’d vote for Freeman if I had a vote. A majority of you disagreed. (Check the poll accompanying that post. Freeman took 64 percent of the who-should-be-ROY vote.)

A majority disagreed with your assertion that Freeman should be rookie of the year because 64% said Freeman should be rookie of the year?

drew

November 15th, 2011
6:31 pm

rugburn the save stat is not over-rated because it doesn’t matter who is pitching in the ninth inning with a win situation that pitcher is responsible to finish the game. Don’t matter who it is! Kimbrel is young, he will eventually become a closer that can be a workhorse the whole season long. That kid had electric stuff up to the last day of the year, you can’t expect him to be perfect every game. Now if Chipper was our closer I’d expect him to be perfect. But you can’t say that the save stat is over-rated. Managers have no control of save situations, Kimbrels your guy and you stick with him! If its bases loaded and a 3 -2 count you still stick with your closer. Thats when confidence comes in but I could lecture you all day on that!

Andrew

November 15th, 2011
6:33 pm

Amazing video of a high school player from Columbia TN who kicks the ball dead straight 75-80 yards in the air. He was successful on 54 of 54 attempts this season….100%. Now he needs a college team.

Watch for yourself…it is unreal!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_JKwgwFY3g

bulldogbubba

November 15th, 2011
7:38 pm

Wow these blogs are short when the “phillie phanatics” aren’t around. GO BRAVES!

rugburn

November 15th, 2011
7:59 pm

drew, i understand your point but my point is that he walked 3 in one inning of the biggest game of the season and we had nobody to go to. kimbrell will be a stud in today’s game. no doubts. you don’t keep pitchers on the staff if you don’t think they can get 3 outs. plus the 3 reliever set-up doesn’t stretch the starters and now our starters can’t get thru 6 to give much needed rest to the pen. so basically, the more innings our pen pitches the less the starters pitch. the less the starters pitch the more the pen pitches. i don’t want to get started on the 6 inning 3 run quality start thing either ,but, name 1 great pitcher who would be happy with an era of 4.50

rugburn

November 15th, 2011
8:35 pm

no bites,huh? how about this. kenshin kawakami had a career era of 4.32 which would basically mean he averaged a quality start for his atlanta career.

Mark Bradley

November 15th, 2011
8:51 pm

Sorry. What I meant to write: In August I said I’d vote for Kimbrel – not Freeman — if I had a vote. Got my rookies confused above. I’m easily addled.

rugburn

November 15th, 2011
9:20 pm

kimbrell excelled at his position, rookie or not, while freeman excelled among rookies

Bill

November 15th, 2011
9:24 pm

Mark how come TP was not interview for any of the Major league managers jobs….? I thought the ajc said he would be on Cards list etc..Nothing!
Maybe he is waiting on Fredi to get fired.

DetroitBraves

November 15th, 2011
9:36 pm

Kimbrel was a good choice but more because of the way he strikes out the batter than saves. The save is probably the most contrived stat out there. Agree with the people on here that would rather have Prado than Delmon Young. Young is not an offensive upgrade, more likely being worse than a healthy Prado and he can’t play defense at the one position he would see time while Prado can at least get by at 4 different positions.

rugburn

November 15th, 2011
9:50 pm

DetroitBraves… i wanted a debate so imagine my disappointment to say that i agree with everything you said

Bill

November 15th, 2011
9:58 pm

Braves now have 7 or 8 teams talking about Prado and about the same # for JJ.. Rockies are hot for Prado and Baltimore’s new GM likes JJ….Royal also still in JJ talks

Hillbilly D

November 16th, 2011
10:23 am

I think the “save” stat is very over-rated.

You ain’t the only one. How many times does a “closer” get brought in to pitch the ninth, when the pitcher in the game is doing just fine, just so he can get a save? Often times, it’s a pitching change just for the sake of a change. Sutters, Fingers, Lee Smith, etc. used to come in, sometimes in the 8th or even the 7th. They came in the game when there was truly a jam.

As you might have guessed, my vote would have gone to Freeman and I’m not even a Braves fan.

Braves Fan Since 1966

November 18th, 2011
7:27 am

I took my 10 year old daughter to her first baseball game during the summer and she was intent on getting an autograph from one of the players. She was able to get close enough to get a single autograph pn a brand new baseball and was way beyond thrilled to get it. The Player? Craig Kimbrell. He was very patient with the kids seeking the autographs (as was Venters and Martinez) and, as a parent, I appreciate it. So did my daughter.

Bob the Blogger

November 18th, 2011
8:23 am

I think you have to give the award to Kimbrel for reasons stated above, but Freeman was almost as valuable for his solid hitting for a weak hitting team, and all of the balls he dug out of the dirt. Plus, he can throw.