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:
|Koji Uehera||Red Sox||2013||74.1||4.00|
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):
|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