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Of course, here at BBB we have quirkier ways of representing this "uber-power" relief pitching trend. Along with the rise in K/9, there is the rise of the "blow away" phenomenon. What's that, you ask?
OK, we'll bite. The "blow-away" is an inning in which the relief pitcher strikes out the side. We can count these for relievers with the current Play Index "layman" features; doing the same thing for starting pitchers will require a "non-layman" in order to find out how many times Sandy Koufax or Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling performed the "blow-away."
The chart also captures the number of pitchers with at least four "blow-aways" per season all the way back to 1960, when Ryne Duren (aka "the Bespectacled One) set the record while hurling for the New York Yankees. (You can follow the progression of the record by the off-colored squares in the table.)
We've created a "weighted total" for these "blow-aways" where we add up the total number of 'em as represented in the leader board. The total for 2013 (130) reflects the number of "blow-aways" contributed by pitchers with at least four of 'em in a season.
As you can see, 2013 has the high value here by a wide margin. Time will tell if 2014 will exceed it.
Some of the other "blow-away" luminaries from 2013 include Aroldis Chapman (12) and Greg Holland (11), both of who had more last year than Kimbrel (who had "only" 10).
Other names near the top from a bit further back in time: Eric Gagne and John Rocker (11, in 2003 and 1999 respectively--yes, that means that Rocker set the record, as that orange-shaded "1" in the 1999 row reveals). Brad Lidge rounds out the double-figure "blow-away" achievers, with 10 in 2005.
So who has the lifetime lead in this category? The answer--at the moment, at least--is Billy Wagner, with 66. Billy the Kid, not exactly the big, hulking type of closer that seems to have become the dominant image of later, clearly was the pioneer for what seems to be the inescapable advent of the "uber-power" reliever. (Kimbrel, however, has 48 "blow-aways" in 4+ seasons, so barring some kind of catastrophe, he looks likely to become the record holder at some point in the not-too-distant future.)
It looks as though the 2010s will become the "decade of the blow-away"--and, the way things are going, that could happen as early as mid-2016....