Subway Boys In The Hall: Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves

When you think about the baseball Hall of Fame, you think about the incredibly high threshold that’s set for an inductee. You don’t just have to be great, you have to keep it up for a long time.

Usually, any discussion of Hall of Fame credentials starts in earnest after a player is well into his career. But it’s always fun to consider the Hall of Fame potential of young superstars, particularly when they set the league on fire right off the bat.

Craig Kimbrel definitely fits the profile of a young superstar who at the very least can be in the conversation this early in their career. This National League Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Star has been consistently dominant right from the start. As we said, Hall of Fame discussions start with numbers, and the numbers are there for Kimbrel. He’s posted 46 and then 42 saves in his first two seasons with the Atlanta Braves. His ERA numbers were an impressive 2.10 and then a dominant 1.01. His WHIP is even more impressive, starting with 1.04 and then going to an eye-popping 0.65. He’s also a strikeout machine with 127 and then 116. In 2013 he’s continued with the impressive stats.

Kimbrel comes across as even keeled and soft spoken in his interview above, but he also has the “wow” factor given how hard he throws. He’s consistently in the high 90s with his brutal fastball and sometimes tops out over 100 MPH. Flamethrowers always grab the attention so that’s another factor in his favor.

Of course all of this is only a start. Longevity is critical for Hall of Fame candidates, and the bar is very high for closers when it comes to the Hall. With Mariano Rivera finishing up his spectacular career, the bar may be raised even higher. So Kimbrel of course has a long way to go. Also, as a power pitcher, keeping it up over a long period of time can be even more difficult. Not everyone has an indestructible arm like Nolan Ryan. But the dominating performances are starting to become routine for this guy, so he’s definitely a youngster to keep an eye on.

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Baseball’s law of averages catches up with the Braves

Atlanta Braves second baseman Brooks Conrad dives for a single hit by San Francisco Giants' Aubrey Huff during the eighth inning in Game 3 of the MLB National League Division Series baseball playoff series in Atlanta, Georgia October 10, 2010.  REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Like any red-blooded sports fan, there are players I root against. I’m supposed to be somewhat objective with in my job so I won’t list those players’ names, but I’m like most fans: I don’t mind seeing certain players fail.

Brooks Conrad isn’t one of those players.

I love self-made guys because they never have the best talent, they’re not flashy and they usually appreciate what they have. Conrad, the 30-year-old journeyman who was forced into regularly playing time because of injuries to Chipper Jones and Martin Prado, is a self-made player. He was a nobody until May 20, when hit his first career major league grand slam by helping the Braves beat the Reds, 10-9.

But because of his three errors in the Giants’ 3-2 come-from-behind win on Sunday in the NLDS, now Conrad is somebody. And unfortunately for him, he’s somebody for all the wrong reasons.

Conrad’s three errors tied a record for most errors in a single divisional series playoff game. Two of his errors led to Giants’ runs, including the eventual winning run when a Buster Posey routine ground ball traveled through his legs to score Aubrey Huff in the top of the ninth.

Of course, had Billy Wagner not gotten hurt in Game 2 of this series, Craig Kimbrel would have never pitched the top of the ninth on Sunday. And had Kimbrel gotten one more strike on Freddy Sanchez, the Giants’ second baseman wouldn’t have reached on a base-hit and Atlanta would be up 2-1 in the series.

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