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One of my twitter followers, @jontatum34, asked me who has the most 3-strikeout innings of all time. While I can’t do a search by innings, I can do one by games. So here it is, the list of the most 1-inning appearances with 3 strikeouts.
This list is since 1919, but really, all of these players are from the past 20-30 years; before then, relievers were not usually restricted to 1 inning per game (there were fewer strikeouts then, too). Here’s the top 10:
|Rk||Player||# 3 K, 1 IP Games||Links to the Games||ERA||SV||ER||HR||WHIP|
|1||Billy Wagner||66||Ind. Games||1.64||35||12||6||0.82|
|2||Trevor Hoffman||44||Ind. Games||0.41||34||2||1||0.82|
|3||Brad Lidge||41||Ind. Games||0.44||24||2||0||1.00|
|4||Armando Benitez||41||Ind. Games||1.76||16||8||4||0.83|
|5||Francisco Rodriguez||39||Ind. Games||0.92||22||4||1||1.05|
|6||Octavio Dotel||31||Ind. Games||2.03||10||7||2||0.87|
|7||Eric Gagne||30||Ind. Games||1.20||21||4||2||0.93|
|8||Mariano Rivera||29||Ind. Games||1.24||12||4||0||0.66|
|9||Brian Fuentes||29||Ind. Games||1.55||11||5||2||1.07|
|10||Jonathan Broxton||29||Ind. Games||2.17||7||7||1||1.14|
I’m sure you knew that Billy Wagner was a great closer, but I don’t think anyone would have predicted that he would have 50% more strikeout-the-side appearances than anyone else.
This is a surprising list, especially in the bottom half. I know that Mariano’s stock-and-trade is not the strikeout, but it is still surprising to see the greatest closer of all time ranked behind such middling closers as Benitez and Dotel, and tied with much younger pitchers like Fuentes and Broxton.
If I had to guess who would break Wagner’s record, I would pick either Carlos Marmol (who has 28, just missing the top 10) or the Braves’ young closer Craig Kimbrel (8, but in only around 40 career appearances). Both of those guys should be pitching in important innings for the next decade or so, and both of them strikeout an ungodly number of batters.
A related list is the number of strikeout-the-side appearances with no baserunners. In other words, these are the games in which the pitchers faced 3 men and struck them all out. Who has the most?
|Rk||Player||# 3 K, 1 IP, 0 BR Games||Links to the Games||ERA||SV||ER||HR||WHIP|
|1||Billy Wagner||33||Ind. Games||0.00||16||0||0||0.00|
|2||Armando Benitez||21||Ind. Games||0.00||10||0||0||0.00|
|3||Trevor Hoffman||18||Ind. Games||0.00||15||0||0||0.00|
|4||Mariano Rivera||16||Ind. Games||0.00||8||0||0||0.00|
|5||Troy Percival||16||Ind. Games||0.00||7||0||0||0.00|
|6||Joe Nathan||15||Ind. Games||0.00||5||0||0||0.00|
|7||Francisco Cordero||15||Ind. Games||0.00||13||0||0||0.00|
|8||Jose Valverde||14||Ind. Games||0.00||7||0||0||0.00|
|9||Francisco Rodriguez||13||Ind. Games||0.00||6||0||0||0.00|
|10||Robb Nen||13||Ind. Games||0.00||12||0||0||0.00|
|11||Brad Lidge||13||Ind. Games||0.00||7||0||0||0.00|
|12||Octavio Dotel||13||Ind. Games||0.00||3||0||0||0.00|
Wagner, not too surprisingly, comes out on top again. Half of his 66 strikeout-the-side games were also perfect innings, which is pretty impressive. As with the last list, Wagner has a huge lead.
We see some new names on this list. Nathan, Cordero, Valverde, and Nen are all great strikeout pitchers, of course. What this tells me is that those guys are dominant when they have their best stuff, but when they are not 100%, they not only give up hits and walks, but are less likely to strike people out. On the other hand, guys like Wagner and Benitez seem to strike people out regardless of whether they are wild or hittable.
Unlike Wagner’s record in the first category, I doubt that this record will ever be broken. No active pitcher is even halfway to Wagner, and the ones that are even that close are all near the ends of their careers. Jonathan Broxton is the highest ranked player under the age of 30 (with 11 perfect strikeout-the side games), but he’s 27 and has seen his hit, walk, and homer rates skyrocket in the past 2 seasons. Marmol is 28, has 10 such games, and is pitching well, but unless he cuts down on his walks or pitches until he’s 40, I doubt he gets to Wagner’s record. Kimbrel might have a shot (he’s got 4 such games already, at age 22) but he’s just starting his career, and a lot can go wrong between now and then.
At any rate, it will likely be years before anyone even seriously challenges Wagner’s records in these two categories. That’s a pretty good testament to his dominance over a long and often underappreciated career.
Tagged with: Armando Benitez Billy Wagner Brad Lidge Carlos Marmol Craig Kimbrel Jonathan Broxton Mariano Rivera Ocatavio Dotel relief pitching relievers strikeouts Trevor Hoffman
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
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