Seeing Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman pitch consecutively in the 8th inning of the All-Star Game was enlightening for me, and for many others. It gave us all a chance to see them right together, and to perhaps look at just who is better. So, without further adieu, I give you, the comparison of Craig Kimbrel against Aroldis Chapman!
Introducing You to Craig Kimbrel
Craig Kimbrel came on to the scene in late 2010, pitching a marvelous 20.2 innings with 40 strikeouts, a 0.44 ERA, and a 1.53 FIP. All in SSS of course, but still a sign of wonderful things to come. He showcased a 17.42 K/9, but also a 6.97 BB/9. He stunned us all with his performance in San Francisco against the Giants in October, striking out a total of 7 batters in 4.1 total innings.
In spring training of 2011, Kimbrel came as expected, but also introduced a question mark. Who would be the closer that year? Venters or Kimbrel? Fredi Gonzalez decided to go with Kimbrel, and Kimbrel kept up his end of the bargain, finishing the year with a save completion rate of 46/54, just over 85%. He lead the National League in saves, gave us a 14.84 K/9 and just 3.74 BB/9 in 77 innings, and a solid 132 strikeouts, which led all of relievers in baseball. He handed us a 1.52 FIP and a 3.2 pitching WAR (FanGraphs), and topped it off with a NL Rookie of the Year Award, edging out teammate Freddie Freeman. He also set the new rookie record for saves before the All-Star break (28) and for saves by a rookie (46), shattering Neftali Feliz's previous record of 40, set just last year. He was also given his first All-Star nod.
Coming into 2012, nobody dared to doubt Kimbrel in his success as a major-league closer, and he hasn't disappointed through the first half of 2012, leading the NL in saves (25), a 15.27 K/9 rate and just 2.73 BB/9. He has also established an amazing FIP of 0.97, a very exquisite BABIP of .218, and could possibly end the season with an ERA of under 1. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, he has the most pitching WAR (FanGraphs) (4.9), which is 1.3 ahead of second place, and he also has the lowest FIP of any reliever since 2011, at 1.36. Through this season, he has accumulated 1.7 pitching WAR, second only to guess who!--Aroldis Chapman, at 1.8. He also earned a spot on the All-Star team.
Introducing You to Aroldis Chapman
Aroldis Chapman is a Cuban-born defector, who signed with Cincinatti on January 10, 2010 to a long-term contract of 6 years, $30.25 million. Chapman has, with dispute, set Major-League records by throwing the fastest pitch in history, at 105.1 mph. He has also, with dispute, been clocked at 106. Chapman didn't have much of a minor league career at all, starting his professional career in AAA Louisville. His pro debut featured him pitching 4.2 innings, giving up 1 run, and striking out 9 batters.
Chapman made his MLB debut August 31, 2010 by pitching the 8th inning agaist the Milwaukee Brewers. He was clocked in at 98 mph and over, and also pitched in the postseason that year against the Brewers. That year in total, Chapman pitched 13.1 innings, with 19 strikeouts and 5 walks, a 2.03 ERA, and he certainly got national attention for his blazing fastball.
In 2011, Chapman hoped to expand on his amazing statistics, and he sure did. Despite not getting an All-Star spot, he impressed as a setup man for the Reds, recording 71 strikeouts in 50 innings, a 12.78 K/9 rate, a .242 BABIP, and a 3.29 FIP. He accumulated a 0.6 WAR (FanGraphs) that year.
In 2012, the Reds were hoping to make Chapman a starter for their rotation, but it did not pan out. Later, he was thrusted into the closer's role, and conveted 11 of 15 save opportunities for the Reds. Through the first half of 2012, Chapman has earned a 1.83 ERA, a 1.51 FIP, a 16.25 K/9, a 2.75 BB/9, 1.8 WAR, and an All-Star spot.
I will use statistics from FanGraphs to make a table showing the 2011, 2012, and career comparisons of Kimbrel and Chapman, with the obvious exception of bWAR (WAR from Baseball-Reference). Here they are:
To explain the K in 50 IP further, it's something I made for this post. I use proportions to see how many Ks each pitcher would have through 50 innings of that particular year, or through 50 innings by their career statistics.
It's not as even as I thought--Kimbrel really defeated Chapman in this matchup. However, it is worth nothing that Chapman's stuff is nastier than Kimbrel from FanGraphs' Pitch F/X category. In their careers, Chapman's fastball averages 98.1, while Kimbrel's fastball averages 96.1. Also, in their careers, Chapman's slider averages 87.6, while Kimbrel's slider averages 86.2. However, Chapman's slider averages -3.6 of horizontal movement, while Kimbrel's slider averages 5.3 of horizontal movement. This means that Kimbrel's slider is slightly slower but with much more movement than Chapman's. Also to note: Chapman has a changeup that averages 93 mph (career) and has 10.7 of vertical movement, while Kimbrel has a two-seam fastball that averages 96.6 mph (career) and has -9.0 of horizontal movement and 6.8 of vertical movment.
All in all, both pitchers have very nasty breaking balls, Chapman a faster fastball, but Kimbrel shines over him in overall numbers and the numbers from year-to-year.