16 May 2007

Dominant 'pen K-pairs

by Joshua Worley

After watching Broxton and Saito blow through the Cardinal lineup last night and save the 9-7 lead, I wondered if they were the most dominant reliever duo in the National League, specifically in terms of striking out batters.

I looked at all NL relievers with at least 10 innings pitched who had struck out at least 25% of batters faced. Five teams had a pair of high strikeout men: they are listed below with percentage of batters struck out, percentage of batters walked or hit by pitch, and ERA.


SO% --- BB% --- ERA
31.9 --- 5.8 --- 1.50 --- Takashi Saito
26.4 --- 8.0 --- 1.23 --- Jonathan Broxton

Saito ranks fourth on the list; he and the three above him are the only NL relievers to have struck out more than 30% of their batters faced.


SO% --- BB% --- ERA
39.0 --- 11.9 --- 0.54 --- Francisco Cordero
33.3 --- 11.1 --- 4.24 --- Derrick Turnbow

I had no idea the Brewers had two strikeout demons in the 'pen. These guys are 1 and 3 on the list, and just in terms of raw strikeout rates they are tops, above even the Dodger pair. They do walk more than either Brox or Saito, so I might still give the edge to the Dodgers. Turnbow's high ERA is a result of his meltdown two days ago against the Phillies. Otherwise he's been brilliant. This dominant pair is one component of the Brewers great start.


SO% --- BB% --- ERA
27.1 --- 12.9 --- 1.56 --- Joe Smith
26.7 --- 6.7 --- 0.56 --- Billy Wagner

I have to admit that I'd never heard of Joe Smith until just now. He's 23, in his first year at the major league level. He's a hard throwing side-armer who had a K rate of almost 9 per 9 innings in his 2006 season split between low A and AA. I guess he's the real thing. Stupid Mets.


SO% --- BB% --- ERA
28.2 --- 12.9 --- 3.57 --- Brad Lidge
25.0 --- 6.9 --- 4.00 --- Dan Wheeler

Well, well, the demoted Brad Lidge makes up half a dominant pair. The Astros actually have three more pitchers above 20% strikeouts, though none of them walk less than 10% or have a sub-three ERA.


SO% --- BB% --- ERA
27.4 --- 8.2 --- 4.00 --- Tyler Yates
26.3 --- 12.5 --- 5.29 --- Oscar Villarreal

Rafael Soriano is the Braves bullpen ace, but he just missed making the 25% cut. These two don't have nice ERAs, though of course relief ERAs are often deceiving, especially after only one and half months. Villarreal is getting rather unlucky with his hits allowed, which is why relievers shouldn't mess around with a walk rate above 10%. If you don't give up the free pass you can absorb some bad luck. As for Yates, I don't know. His WHIP is 1.06, so his ERA is really just bad luck.

So that's the all the dominant 'pen K-pairs in the NL. I rank the Dodgers just above the Brewers because of lower walk rates, with the Mets a close third because they can't quite match the K-rates of the Brewers or Dodgers.

But wait, there's one more dominant 'pen K-pair!

B-team Dodgers:

SO% --- BB% --- ERA
27.7 --- 11.7 --- 3.80 --- Chad Billingsley
29.7 --- 2.7 --- 1.64 --- Mark Hendrickson

Okay, so one is a starter now, and one should be a starter now. Hendrickson just made the innings pitched cut with a mere 11 relief innings, and his starter stats don't count in this, so he's more of a curiosity than anything. Billingsley really has been impressive in the 'pen after a shaky start. It's time for him to bump Tomko from the rotation. He might not maintain a K-rate above 25% when starting, of course.

And now, for completeness, the rest of the Dodger 'pen is below.

The rest of the Dodgers:

SO% --- BB% --- ERA
20.7 --- 8.6 --- 2.81 --- Chin-hui Tsao
11.7 --- 13.0 --- 3.79 --- Joe Beimel
20.2 --- 6.7 --- 3.00 --- Rudy Seanez

One of these men doesn't belong, and I'm not talking about Seanez. Okay, maybe he doesn't belong either. The Dodgers have a pretty good 'pen, though, don't they? All but Beimel strike out at least 20% of the batters they face, and all but Beimel and Billingsley walk less than 10%.

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