The 10 Best Strikeout Relievers in Major League Baseball
Relievers, by their very nature, are quite volatile.
The really good ones are good year-in and year-out. That's why pitchers like Mariano Rivera, Dennis Eckersley, Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner were so good. They maintained consistency on a yearly basis. Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman and Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel are relievers cut from the same cloth. You can set your watch to their effectiveness.
The other thing that really good relief pitchers have in common is the ability to strike batters out. Missing bats is key for bullpen guys, because the more bats they miss, the better the chance of avoiding a long home run or a fluky base hit. It's one of the reasons why Kimbrel and Chapman are so effective. Both have incredible swing-and-miss pitches which don't allow hitters to make solid contact, if they make any contact at all.
So, if the name of the game for relievers is to strike guys out, I thought it might be good to see just who has done the best job this year of piling up the whiffs.
Rather than use strikeouts as our main tool for ranking these arms (because some have thrown more innings than others), we'll use strikeout percentage (K%), which tabulates the percentage of batters each pitcher faced that they struck out. We'll also use strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) as another tool, and will also include each players nERD - the number of runs per game better that pitcher is over a league average pitcher - and Baseball Reference's Wins Above Replacement (rWAR), which I like better than FanGraphs' WAR for pitchers (fWAR) because Baseball Reference uses ERA in their calculations, not Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).