StaTuesday: Brewers' Thornburg having one of best seasons ever for reliever

Tyler Thornburg was just another member of the Milwaukee Brewers' bullpen when everything changed in late July.

That's when the Brewers dealt relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith before the non-waiver trading deadline. Manager Craig Counsell then moved Thornburg into the closer's role. To say Thornburg has done well there would be an understatement.

Of course, Thornburg was having a good year even before all those moves. Before the All-Star break, Thornburg had pitched in 35 innings and held opponents to a 168/246/328 slash line. Since the break, he's lowered that to 110/187/171 in 25 1/3 innings. That .110 average equates to allowing just nine hits.

In fact, Thornburg is having one of the best seasons by a reliever in history, at least in terms of hits per 9 innings. Of pitchers who have gone at least 60 innings, Thornburg currently ranks tied for 11th all-time with 4.48 hits per 9. (He's also on quite a streak, more on that below.)

It is interesting to see some of the other players on the list. Carlos Marmol was troubled by walks and homers -- in 2008, 25 percent (10 of 40) of his hits left the ballpark. Others like Jeff Nelson and Armando Benitez also had struggles with control.

Like Thornburg (at least for the first few months), not everyone on this list is a closer. Marmol in '08 had only seven saves; Nelson and Dellin Betances were setup men, as was Troy Percival in 1995 -- he used his good performance to be named closer in 1996, and make this list again.

The one outlier is Mike Naymick. Of those who allowed under 4.70 hits per 9, they all appeared since 1995, except for Naymick, who allowed 4.60 hits per 9 in 1943. Of course, he also walked 6.8 batters per 9 that season.

Here's all the pitchers with under a 4.70 H/9 and 60+ IP:

Player Team Year IP H/9
Craig Kimbrel Braves 2012 62.2 3.88
Koji Uehera Red Sox 2013 74.1 4.00
Eric Gagne Dodgers 2003 82.1 4.04
Carlos Marmol Cubs 2008 87.1 4.12
Jeff Nelson Mariners 2001 65.1 4.13
Billy Wagner Astros 1999 74.2 4.22
Hung-Chih Kuo Dodgers 2010 60 4.35
Craig Kimbrel Braves 2014 61.2 4.38
Aroldis Chapman Reds 2012 71.2 4.40
Wade Davis Royals 2015 67.1 4.41
Joaquin Benoit Rays 2010 60.1 4.48
Tyler Thornburg Brewers 2016 60.1 4.48
Troy Percival Angels 1995 74 4.50
Kenley Jansen Dodgers 2016 61.2 4.52
Kenley Jansen Dodgers 2012 65 4.57
Mike Naymick Indians 1943 62.2 4.6
Dellin Betances Yankees 2014 90 4.6
Troy Percival Angels 1996 74 4.62
Armando Benitez Mets 1999 78 4.62
Armando Benitez Mets 2000 76 4.62
Takashi Saito Dodgers 2007 64.1 4.62
Carlos Marmol Cubs 2010 77.2 4.64
Armando Benitez Marlins 2004 69.2 4.65
J.J. Putz Mariners 2007 71.2 4.65
Tyler Clippard Nationals 2013 71 4.69

Back to Thornburg. While he's been deadly against left-handers -- southpaws are hitting only .114 against him -- Thornburg has been especially tough on righties as of late.

Since former Brewer Rickie Weeks, now with Arizona, had singled off him on July 28, right-handers are 0 for 33 against Thornburg (with a few walks, a bunt and an error included), which is the longest active streak for any pitcher in the majors.

Here's the list of the right-handers who have faced Thornburg since that Weeks hit (entering Tuesday's game):

Date Player Team Result
July 28 Yasmany Tomas Diamondbacks Strikeout swinging
July 28 Brandon Drury Diamondbacks Fly out
July 30 Francisco Cervelli Pirates Strikeout swinging
July 30 Josh Harrison Pirates Ground out
July 30 Jody Mercer Pirates Pop out
Aug. 2 Jabari Blash Padres Strikeout swinging
Aug. 2 Derek Norris Padres Strikeout swinging
Aug. 5 Philip Gosselin Diamondbacks Fly out
Aug. 5 Jean Segura Diamondbacks Ground out
Aug. 8 Matt Kemp Braves Walk
Aug. 8 Adonis Garcia Braves Intentional walk
Aug. 8 Gordon Beckham Braves Error
Aug. 8 Chase d'Arnaud Braves Foul out
Aug. 10 Gordon Beckham Braves Strikeout swinging
Aug. 14 Ivan DeJesus Reds Walk
Aug. 14 Eugenio Suarez Reds Fly out
Aug. 16 Willson Contreras Cubs Walk
Aug. 16 Javier Baez Cubs Fly out
Aug. 16 David Ross Cubs Strikeout swinging
Aug. 21 Chris Iannetta Mariners Fly out
Aug. 22 Ryan Raburn Rockies Strikeout swinging
Aug. 25 Francisco Cervelli Pirates Fly out
Aug. 25 Jody Mercer Pirates Double play
Aug. 29 Steven Pisotty Cardinals Walk
Aug. 29 Yadier Molina Cardinals Sac bunt
Aug. 29 Jhonny Peralta Cardinals Walk
Aug. 29 Randal Grichuk Cardinals Strikeout swinging
Aug. 30 Jedd Gyorko Cardinals Strikeout swinging
Aug. 30 Steven Pisotty Cardinals Strikeout swinging
Aug. 31 Yadier Molina Cardinals Ground out
Aug. 31 Randal Grichuk Cardinals Line out
Sept. 2 Starling Marte Pirates Fly out
Sept. 2 David Freese Pirates Walk
Sept. 2 Francisco Cervelli Pirates Pop out
Sept. 2 Jody Mercer Pirates Line out
Sept. 3 Sean Rodriguez Pirates Fly out
Sept. 3 Andrew McCutchen Pirates Foul out
Sept. 7 Kris Bryant Cubs Strikeout swinging
Sept. 11 Randal Grichuk Cardinals Strikeout looking
Sept. 11 Jedd Gyorko Cardinals Strikeout swinging

Dave Heller is the author of the upcoming book Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth's Shadow as well as 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