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.
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.
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.
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