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Unsurprisingly, Craig Kimbrel leads MLB relievers with 11 relief appearances in which he has recorded 3 or more strikeouts. That may seem like a lot to you, but historically speaking, it isn’t. It’s actually been done over 300 times. Below, we (by which I mean, “I”) give you the top 25 such seasons.
Actually, it’s the top 26 seasons, but close enough. That’s how many times a player has had at least 20 relief appearances with 3+ Ks. Twenty-one different players reached that milestone, some of them familiar (Mariano Rivera, Goose Gossage) and others much less so. Here’s the list:
|Rk||Player||Year||# of 3+ K Games||Link|
|1||Dick Radatz||1964||36||Ind. Games|
|2||Mark Eichhorn||1986||28||Ind. Games|
|3||Dick Radatz||1962||27||Ind. Games|
|4||Dick Selma||1970||26||Ind. Games|
|Brad Lidge||2004||26||Ind. Games|
|6||Dick Radatz||1963||25||Ind. Games|
|7||John Hiller||1974||23||Ind. Games|
|Rich Gossage||1977||23||Ind. Games|
|9||Byung-Hyun Kim||2000||22||Ind. Games|
|Rob Dibble||1990||22||Ind. Games|
|DeWayne Buice||1987||22||Ind. Games|
|12||Duane Ward||1989||21||Ind. Games|
|Mariano Rivera||1996||21||Ind. Games|
|Jim Kern||1979||21||Ind. Games|
|Rich Gossage||1978||21||Ind. Games|
|Keith Foulke||1999||21||Ind. Games|
|Steve Bedrosian||1982||21||Ind. Games|
|18||Scott Williamson||1999||20||Ind. Games|
|Billy Wagner||1997||20||Ind. Games|
|Joe Page||1947||20||Ind. Games|
|Carlos Marmol||2010||20||Ind. Games|
|Tom Henke||1987||20||Ind. Games|
|Rich Gossage||1975||20||Ind. Games|
|Scott Garrelts||1987||20||Ind. Games|
|Rob Dibble||1989||20||Ind. Games|
|Mark Clear||1982||20||Ind. Games|
Dick Radatz! Who knew? Well, I knew, but only because I’ve done some posts in this vein before. From 1962 (his rookie year) to 1964, Radatz was incredibly good, averaging 138 IP a year in relief to go with 10.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, and a 180 ERA+. He was never the same after 1964, but that is as good a 3-year run as just about any non-Mariano Rivera reliever has had.
I bet none of you guessed that Mark Eichorn or Dick Selma would be in the top 5, either.
This list is obviously weighted a bit toward the era of the multi-inning reliever (roughly, the ’60s through the mid ’80s), but there are plenty of more recent, 1-inning-type closers on the list. Brad Lidge, Billy Wagner, and Carlos Marmol are all players I expected to be on this list, but how about Byung-Hyun Kim, Scott Williamson, and Keith Foulke? Those guys always seemed more like run-of-the-mill closers rather than dominant strikeout aces.
The key with Williamson and Foulke is that both were frequently used in stints of longer than an inning, which gave them more time to accumulate those Ks. Both averaged just over 1.5 innings per appearance, quite high by 1999 standards. In Kim’s case, he simply had an otherworldly strikeout year (14.1 K/9), which was uncharacteristic for him and not all that helpful, either, since it led to a lot of walks (5.9 BB/9).
Something weird must have been going on in 1987, when DeWayne Buice, Scott Garrelts, and Tom Henke all managed this feat. Henke is not all that surprising, given that he was a dominant reliever who also frequently pitched more than 1 IP in an outing, but the other two… Garrelts was just a good reliever (career 108+), not a great one; his career K/9 was only 6.6, which is far lower than most guys on this list. Buice was even stranger. He had a nice year as a rookie for the Angels in 1987, but he was already 29 at the time, and crashed out of MLB within two seasons.
So anyway, Kimbrel’s got a long way to go to become the next DeWayne Buice, much less the next Dick Radatz. Though for his (and the Braves’) long-term prospects, it might be better if he never got there, given the extra workload he’d likely have to take on in order to make a list such as this one. I know if I were the Braves, I’d be content to leave this list to the Mark Clears of yesteryear.
Tagged with: Billy Wagner Brad Lidge Byung-Hyun Kim Craig Kimbrel DeWayne Buice Dick Radatz Dick Selma Goose Gossage Keith Foulke Mariano Rivera Mark Clear Mark Eichorn Rob Dibble Scott Garrelts Scott Williamson Tom Henke
This blog is devoted to the invention and use of unusual baseball statistics. These Junk Stats are designed to reveal the not-so-meaningful quirks that make baseball so fascinating.
JunkStats is written by Jacob Peterson, who also writes for the Braves blog Talking ChopBeyond the Boxscore
For more about the site or the author, read the About page
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