StaTuesday: Brewers’ Knebel approaching more strikeout marks

Before the season began if you had to choose one Milwaukee Brewers player that would make the All-Star Game it is likely that Corey Knebel would have been at the tail end of that list.

But Knebel took over the closer’s role in mid-May and has been spectacular in that role — and especially in the category of striking out the opposition.

Back in May, we detailed some of Knebel’s exploits, including his streak of at least one K per game, which at that point had reached 22 games, a record for a Brewers reliever.

Since then, Knebel set the record for relievers by whiffing a batter in 38 consecutive games to start a season. His streak dating back to last season (he fanned two in his last appearance of 2016) is at 44 games, which is just five off the all-time record for relievers. Knebel is just one of seven relievers to own a streak of at least 30 games with one strikeout in major-league history.

Pitcher Years Streak
Aroldis Chapman 2013-14 49
Corey Knebel 2016-17 44
Bruce Sutter 1977 39
Eric Gagne 2003-04 35
Aroldis Chapman 2011-12 34
Juan Nicasio 2016 33
Jeff Montgomery 1989 32
Lee Smith 1988 30

As mentioned above, Knebel owns the strikeout streak for Milwaukee relievers (by more than double). When you add in starting pitchers, he is tied for 26th and needs 16 more games to tie for 20th. Not bad for a guy who might only face three batters per game.

Pitcher Years Streak
Yovani Gallardo 2007-14 208
Ben Sheets 2001-07 189
Doug Davis 2003-10 119
Teddy Higuera 1985-88 96
Chris Capuano 2004-07 90
Wily Peralta 2012-15 86
Matt Garza 2014-current 85
Dave Bush 2007-10 78
Scott Karl 1995-98 75
Cal Eldred 1996-99 70
Jamey Wright 2000-02 68
Steve Woodard 1997-99 68
Marty Pattin 1970-71 68
Cal Eldred 1991-94 67
Jimmy Nelson 2015-current 66
Marco Estrada 2012-14 66
Kyle Lohse 2013-15 65
Randy Wolf 2010-12 64
Jeff D’Amico 1996-2001 61
Jimmy Haynes 2000-2001 60
Shaun Marcum 2011-12 54
Victor Santos 2004-05 53
Teddy Higuera 1988-90 53
Moose Haas 1979-81 52
Dave Bush 2006-07 49
Pete Vukovich 1982-85 44
Corey Knebel 2016-current 44

Since our last article on Knebel, he’s upped his rate of strikeouts and he’s now fanning 15.94 batters per nine innings.

If he can keep up that rate for the rest of the season, it would be the fifth-best K/9 in history (minimum 40 innings pitched). Only 10 times has a pitcher had a K/9 of 15.0 or better — Aroldis Chapman owns four of the 10 — and, not surprisingly, they have all occurred since 2010. Three others have come close, and make it if you want to round up: Eric Gagne, 14.98 in 2003; Billy Wagner, 14.95, 1999; and Brad Lidge, 14.93 in 2004. Also, the Chicago White Sox’s Tommy Kahle is at 15.09 K/9 this season in 34 innings.

Pitcher Year IP K/9
Aroldis Chapman 2014 54 17.67
Craig Kimbrel 2012 62.2 16.66
Kenley Jansen 2011 53.2 16.10
Carlos Marmol 2010 77.2 15.99
Corey Knebel 2017 42.1 15.94
Aroldis Chapman 2013 63.2 15.83
Aroldis Chapman 2015 66.1 15.74
Dellin Betances 2016 73 15.53
Edwin Diaz 2016 51.2 15.33
Aroldis Chapman 2012 71.2 15.32

Knebel entered the All-Star break with 75 strikeouts. With 25 more Ks, it will mark the 153rd time in MLB history that a pitcher who started no games posted 100 or more strikeouts (and eight relievers did it in 2016). Of those 152, just 30 did it in 75 innings or less and 46 in fewer than 80 innings.

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow, Facing Ted Williams – Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns