Craig Kimbrel, Greatest Power Pitcher in History

If you had to pick one pitcher in the game today, who would be the most dominating to face?

What pitcher would strike you out the most often and give up the fewest hits and runs?

When you add ERA and WHIP, and then subtract the number of strikeouts per inning (Power Pitching), you can find who is the most dominant in the game.

!Bw1NVU!Bmk~$(KGrHqV,!icEv1+0GREyBMKz6rdGbw~~_35The lifetime leader in Power Pitching is Billy Wagner. This 5′ 10″ 180 lb left hander struck out an average of 11.9 batters per nine innings, or 1.324 batters per inning. Subtract his K/inning from his lifetime ERA (2.310) plus his lifetime WHIP (0.998), and it gives Wagner the lowest Power Pitching (PP) number in history, 1.984.

The lifetime Power Pitching list was published here, one of the first stories I wrote in 2011 for 60ft6in.

Nobody in the history of baseball ever struck out more than half the batters they faced in a single season until Craig Kimbrel faced 231 batters and struck out 116 last year.

To put that in prospective, Justin Verlander led baseball with 239 strikeouts in 2012. He needed to face 956 batters to reach that number.

In the history of baseball the highest number of strikeouts per nine innings is 12.2 by Rob Dibblefollowed by Billy Wagner at 11.9.

In 160 lifetime innings, Craig Kimbrel is averaging 15.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

In 2012 Kimbrel averaged 16.7 strikeouts per nine innings, equal to 1.765 strikeouts per inning. He had a WHIP of 0.654 and an ERA of 1.01. That meant that he had a negative (-0.11) PP number for the season.

Kimbrel has a lifetime ERA of 1.46 and lifetime WHIP of 0.911. His lifetime PP number is 0.606.

Lifetime Power Pitching leaders:

  1. Craig Kimbrel                0.606
  2. Billy Wagner                   1.984
  3. Jonathan Papelbon    2.159
  4. Mariano Rivera            2.190


Yes, it’s very early in Kimbrel’s career, but nobody that ever pitched in the game has put up this type of Power Pitching numbers at any time.

Craig Kimbrel was the 96th pick in the draft class of 2008. In less than five years, this 5’11” 205 lb 24-year-old righthander from Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, AL has turned into the greatest Power Pitcher in the history of the game.

About Rick Swanson 91 Articles
Rick Swanson has been an online feature writer for numerous websites since 2005. He was also a speaker at Boston SABR meetings from 2007-2009. Rick has created three statistics for baseball.... Reaction over Range: A new way to measure defense. Divide reaction time of any play, by the range distance. Umpire Strikezone Score: Take the total number of correct pitches called, divided by the total number of pitches called. Power Pitching: Add WHIP plus ERA and subtract the number of strikeouts per inning. Rick's current title is Consultant, Red Sox and Fenway Park History. In 2007, he was nominated for President of Red Sox Nation by Red Sox team president, Larry Lucchino. You can email Rick here: rickswanson AT cox DOT net


  1. The numbers don’t lie.Billy Wagner was a hero of mine and did a marvelous job as a closer. I can’t help but wonder what Mark Wohlers could have accomplished if he hadn’t lost his concentration.

  2. “In the history of the game”? Uh, no. Kimbrel has played 2 yrs. Johnson, Grove, Feller, Koufax, Ryan, & others produced impressive strikeout numbers over long careers. And, they compiled high strikeout totals when it was considered embarrassing as a hitter to strikeout. Today, we have leadoff hitters striking out 150 times per season & power hitters in the 200 range without the least bit of concern. Kimbrel pitches 1 inning per game. The great power pitchers pitched 9.

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