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Craig Kimbrel Wins National League Rookie of the Year, Freddie Freeman Comes in Second

November 14th, 2011 at 8:13 PM
By Cody Fields

Though his season was bookend by rough stretches, Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has been awarded the 2011 National League Rookie of the Year.

In adding to the numerous awards already bestowed upon Kimbrel, the rookie who turned himself into an intimidating ninth inning force was unanimously voted the NL's Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He received all 32 first place votes.

 

"When I got the call, I was definitely surprised to hear it was a unanimous decision," Kimbrel said. "It's an honor. For it [to be unanimous] makes it that much more special."

Currently in Hawaii to attend Peter Moylan's upcoming wedding, Kimbrel was on his hotel balcony with his fiancée when he learned he had become the first unanimous NL Rookie of the Year Award winner since Albert Pujols in 2001.

With Freddie Freeman finishing in second place, it was the first time since 1989 that teammates finished in the top two in ROTY balloting. The last teammates to do it were Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith of the Chicago Cubs finished 1-2.

Kimbrel is the seventh Braves player to win the award, with Rafael Furcal the last to win the award in 2000. He is also the first Braves pitcher to win the Rookie of the Year.

Freeman received 21 second-place votes and was included on 28 of the 32 ballots.

Kimbrel blew four of his first 15 save opportunities before going on a tear of 37 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings that stretched from June 12-Sept. 8. He then ended the season on a sour note by blowing three of his final six saves in September, a fact that is not lost on Kimbrel.

"It's really nice to have this honor, but it's not going to take away from what happened near the end of the year or anything like that," Kimbrel said. "If anything, the end of the year is going to help me strive to do better and become a better pitcher."

Becoming a better pitcher would indeed be a tall task for Kimbrel, who broke the Major League rookie record for saves with 46. He finished with a .178 opponents batting average and 127 strikeouts in 77 innings, good for a rate of 14.84 strikeouts per nine innings. Carlos Marmol (2010), Eric Gagne ('03) and Billy Wagner (1998 and '99) are the only other pitchers to record at least 14 strikeouts per nine innings and notch at least 30 saves in the same season.

Though Kimbrel's season ended with him issuing three walks and giving up a one-run lead to the Philadelphia Phillies in the must-win 162nd game, his memorable year and potential are in full view of his teammates.

"He's had a Rookie of the Year-caliber year," Chipper Jones said after the regular-season finale. "We wouldn't have been here without him. He's going to be a better closer down the road because of this."

Tags: Atlanta, Atlanta Braves, Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, MLB

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