LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Time will tell whether Craig Kimbrel will earn the right to one day be mentioned as reverently as Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and the legends who have previously set the standard for the closing role. But for now, Kimbrel can take satisfaction in the fact that he currently stands as baseball's premier closer.
Kimbrel added another honor to his portfolio when he was recognized as the Closer of the Year when MLB.com's Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards (GIBBYs) were announced on Tuesday afternoon.
While Kimbrel might not have been as dominant as he was when he struck out more than half the batters he faced during the 2012 season, he still spent this past season proving to be one of the most feared closers the game has seen over the past decade.
Kimbrel successfully converted 50 of his 54 save opportunities, including 40 of his last 41, this past season. The 25-year-old right-hander's career-high 50 saves matched Jim Johnson for the Major League high. He became the youngest pitcher to reach 50 saves.
MLB's A-listers won GIBBY trophies -- the ultimate honors of baseball's awards season -- on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. More than 10 million votes were cast by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans at MLB.com and the Society for American Baseball Research.
This year's GIBBY Awards featured nominees in 22 categories. Individual honors went to the MLB MVP, in addition to the year's best Starting Pitcher, Hitter, Closer, Setup Man, Rookie, Breakout Hitter, Breakout Pitcher, Comeback Player, Defensive Player, Manager, Executive and Postseason Performer.
GIBBY trophies also were awarded for the year's top Play, Storyline, Hitting Performance, Pitching Performance, Oddity, Walk-off, Cut4 Topic, Regular-Season Moment and Postseason Moment, with video available via MLB.com's Must C highlight reels.
GIBBYs categories included players from both leagues and performances not only from the regular season but also through the end of the playoffs, making them unique in singling out the best of the best.
All 30 clubs were represented among the award candidates. In fact, every team had multiple nominees in 2013 -- a testament to the parity of talent around the game.
Kimbrel began this past season in impressive fashion, converting nine of the 10 save opportunities he garnered in April. He proved human when he allowed a ninth-inning home run against David Wright on May 3 and back-to-back two-out home runs in a loss to the Reds four days later.
But after blowing a ninth-inning lead in both of those games, Kimbrel set a Braves franchise record by converting each of his next 37 save opportunities.
During his final 54 appearances, Kimbrel posted a 0.54 ERA and limited opponents to a .151 batting average. Three of the four runs he surrendered in the 53 2/3 innings completed during this span were scored by the Nationals during the ninth inning of a Sept. 17 game in Washington.
Kimbrel stands as the only pitcher in Major League history to record 40 saves in each of his first three full seasons. He leads the Majors with 138 saves during this span. Johnson ranks second with 110.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.