Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who led the National League and tied for the Major League lead with a career-high 50 saves, has been named the winner of the 2013 Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award. Kimbrel, who was named the monthly winner for August, becomes the first Braves pitcher to win the annual award since its inception in 2005. In addition, he joins Brad Lidge (2008 Philadelphia Phillies) and Heath Bell (2010 San Diego Padres) as the only N.L. pitchers to claim the honor.
Kimbrel went 4-3 on the season with a 1.21 ERA while converting 50 of his 54 save opportunities. In 67.0 innings pitched, he permitted just 10 runs (nine earned) on 39 hits with 20 walks and 98 strikeouts. The right-hander became the 11th different pitcher (14th time overall) to record at least 50 saves in a season, and at 25 years old, became the youngest pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the feat. Eric Gagne previously held the mark after saving 52 games at the age of 26 for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002. In addition, Kimbrel joined John Smoltz (55 saves in 2002) as the only pitchers in Braves history to reach the 50-save plateau.
The three-time All-Star converted a franchise-record 37 consecutive save opportunities from May 9th-September 14th, permitting just two runs (0.38 ERA) and 23 hits in 47 appearances (47.1 innings pitched) with 68 strikeouts over that span. The streak eclipsed Smoltz's previous record of 27 straight converted saves from 2002-03. On May 9th, the 2011 N.L. Rookie of the Year collected his 100th career save in a 6-3 win over the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, becoming the second-youngest pitcher in history to record 100 saves. Four-time All-Star Francisco Rodriguez is the only player to reach the milestone quicker, doing so at age 24 in September 2006. Kimbrel recorded his 40th save of the season on August 21st in a 4-1 win over the New York Mets at Citi Field, becoming the first pitcher in Major League history with at least 40 saves in each of his first three seasons. The Huntsville, Alabama native surrendered just four home runs during the season and held opposing hitters to a .166 batting average. For his career, Kimbrel is 15-7 with a 1.39 ERA and has now converted 139 of 154 (90%) save opportunities.
Other relievers receiving votes included Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland (2-1, 1.21 ERA, 47 SV, 67.0 IP, 9 ER, 40 H, 18 BB, 103 SO) and closer Joe Nathan (6-2, 1.39 ERA, 43 SV, 64.2 IP, 10 ER, 36 H, 22 BB, 73 SO), who was a member of the Texas Rangers.