Over the past few days, we’ve been running down the list of relief pitchers who are still on the free agent market by strikeout rate. In the first part, we covered the pitchers who struck out 10.0 or more batters per nine innings this year, and in the second, we covered those who struck out more than 8.7 per nine—the major league average for relievers in the 2016 season. Strikeout rate obviously isn’t the only factor that determines whether or not a reliever is any good, but it makes for a straightforward way to group some of these pitchers together.
So this part of the series focuses on pitchers who struck out just below that major league average in 2016.
Pitchers with 8.00-8.69 K/9 in 2016
Daniel Hudson is the top remaining pitcher on the market in this range and finished the year with 8.65 strikeouts per nine. But in his 60.1 innings, he had an ugly 5.22 ERA. Neither his walk rate nor his home run rate was awful, which left him with a 3.81 FIP. He was a bit better in 2015, with a 3.86 ERA and 3.49 FIP, and he’ll turn 30 years old in March.
Well known to Mets fans as the guy who broke his thumb in frustration after the Mets beat him and the Nationals late in the 2015 season, Drew Storen was traded by Washington to the Blue Jays in January. That happened in part because the team wanted to hold on to Jonathan Papelbon, which worked out really well. Things went poorly for Storen in Toronto, as he racked up a 6.21 ERA and 5.01 FIP in 33.1 innings before the Blue Jays traded him to the Mariners for Joaquin Benoit shortly before the trade deadline. His numbers in 18.1 innings with Seattle—3.44 ERA, 2.76 FIP—were much better, and he finished the year with 8.36 strikeouts per nine. Still just 29 years old, he’s mostly been good or very good in seven seasons in the majors but has had a couple of bad years, including 2016.
You might not be familiar with Fernando Rodriguez, but the 32-year-old stuck out 8.19 batters per nine with the A’s this year. He’s spent some time with the Angels, Astros, and A’s in his major league career and had a 4.20 ERA and 3.61 FIP in 2016, both of which were right around his career norms.
Joba Chamberlain only threw 20.0 innings for the Cleveland Indians but fared better than expected in them, with a 2.25 ERA and 8.10 strikeouts per nine. He walked 4.95 batters per nine, which is bad, though he managed to limit the damage. He missed some time early in the year with the intercostal injury, and Cleveland released him in early July. And that was that for his season.
One of the few left-handed relievers on the market aside from Jerry Blevins, Mike Dunn spent the past six seasons with the Marlins. Without looking it up, that probably makes him one of the longest-tenured Marlins of the past couple of decades. Overall, his 2016 season was just alright, with 8.08 strikeouts per nine, a 3.40 ERA, and a 3.88 FIP in 42.1 innings. Like Blevins, he’s been much better against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters in his career.
Casey Fien struck out 8.01 per nine but was bad by just about every other measure. He was particularly bad in 14 appearances with the Twins, during which he had a 7.90 ERA and 6.81 FIP—and gave up 3.29 home runs per nine. The Dodgers claimed him on waivers in May, and while he had a 4.22 ERA in his time with them, the home run problem didn’t get much better. He allowed 2.97 per nine with Los Angeles.
Of this group, Storen might be the most intriguing given the good years he had before things went haywire, but he also had a velocity drop of nearly two full miles per hour from 2015 to 2016. Dunn could make sense as a Blevins replacement, and Hudson has thrown in the mid-to-high 90s as a reliever after coming back from two Tommy John surgeries. Rodriguez and Chamberlain could each be worth a flyer, and Fien might need to reestablish himself with a non-contending team to begin the 2017 season.