Craig Kimbrel throws a nasty breaking ball. He grips it like a spike slider (maybe) and the ball moves like a curveball (sort of). It’s a relatively short curveball, but one moving upwards of 87 mph when it leaves Kimbrel’s hand. The combination of speed and drop are unparalleled in the major leagues today.
Checkout the discussion and a picture of the grip in the forum at Brooks Baseball. The label is not as important as the key characteristics—speed and drop—when looking for comparisons to Kimbrel’s offering. The first comparison is flame-thrower Henry Rodriguez.
Rodriguez threw a very similar breaking ball to Kimbrel’s in 2011, averaging roughly the same drop (40 inches) but not as fast (84 mph).
Close, but no cigar. As a matter of fact, if you look for any pitch that averages more than 82 mph and dropped more than 38 inches on the way to home plate, you’d fine a decent list but no one in Kimbrel’s exact neighborhood. If you go back past 2011, some sliders show-up (Brett Anderson, Billy Wagner), but otherwise this is a list of curveballs and their throwers. And, as it turns out, Mitch Talbot appears to be our co-runner up, if you sort by speed.
Fast (82+ mph) and dropping (38+ in.), average values 2011
|Pitcher||drop (in.)||mph||sweep (in.)||#|
Note: all pitch classifications are our own and do not come from Gameday or BIS feeds