Mariano Rivera will no longer be in the majors after 2013. With that said, the Atlanta Braves have the best closer in the game today in Craig Kimbrel. When looking at the stats and examining some data, Kimbrel is on pace to shatter Rivera's save record. Can the Braves' 24-year-old closer become the greatest ever? I think so.
Let's look at these numbers.
Mariano was simply a setup man for the Yankees back when John Wetteland walked around New York with his sweat-stained hat. Remember him? Oh wait, Braves fans, you might want to turn away as the celebration came right after defeating Atlanta in the 1996 World Series they should have won.
That was Rivera's predecessor in the Bronx and it's been close to 17 years since anybody has removed Rivera from his role. In 1996, Rivera did such a great job pitching he finished third in the Cy Young Award race. He went 8-3 with a 2.09 ERA in 107 innings pitched, saving five games. By the time he recorded a save as the official closer, Rivera was 27. That year he notched 43 saves.
Now, Kimbrel is nowhere near 27. He's turning 25 in late May (Kimbrel and I were born on the same exact day). That's Rivera's age when he first came to the big leagues.
Kimbrel recorded his first save at age 22 in 2010 with the Braves. He accompanied that with a 4-0 record in 21 games pitched. Then in 2011, as it was evident to everybody, Kimbrel was going to be the Braves everyday closer. He went 4-3 with a 2.10 ERA and saved 46 games. He bettered his pitching performance by lowering his ERA to 1.01 and posted a record setting 16.7 K/9 Ratio in 2012 while also recording 42 saves.
That's a total of 89 saves before the age of 25. By the time he's 27, Kimbrel could double this number and potentially have about 200 saves getting a head start on Rivera's save record.
Unlike Kimbrel though, Rivera solely depended solely on fastballs. Kimbrel relies on a fastball and slider, which requires more torque and spin, creating more pressure on the arm.
The Braves are a competitive team and should be winning many games in years to come after acquiring the big bats of the Upton Brothers to go hand-in-hand with their great young pitching. So all that is standing between Kimbrel and the save record down the road is health and of course, himself.