Craig Kimbrel, the hard-throwing closer for the Alanta Braves who had one of the highest strikeout rates in the history of baseball, is the unanimous winner of the 2011 Rookie of the Year Award, as announced by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Monday.
Kimbrel led the National League with 46 saves, striking out 127 batters in 77 innings, with a 2.10 ERA. He was also one of the hardest pitchers to hit in baseball, allowing only 5.6 hits for every nine innings that he pitched.
The closer also blew eight saves on the year for the Braves, including three in September. His walks to Jimmy Rollins and Ben Francisco in the last game of the regular season set up a blown save that would cost the Braves their season. If you want to dig a little deeper, the walks also cost the Phillies, Brewers, and Rangers their seasons too, as the Braves' loss allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to make the playoffs and win the World Series.
But the important point is that Kimbrel really was an amazing rookie. He was one of the best relievers in baseball, abusing hitters with a 96+ fastball and sharp breaking ball. In 2009, he was in A-ball, walking 28 batters in 26 innings. In 2011, he's the Rookie of the Year, the first reliever to win the award in the National League since Scott Williamson in 1999.