When the New York Yankees traded minor league outfielder Abraham Almonte to the Seattle Mariners for right-hander Shawn Kelley on February 13th nobody really noticed the move. Which is understandable because Kelley had never really done anything to stand out and was seen as a stereotypical middle reliever in the ‘not bad, but not good either’ category.
So far this season Kelley hasn’t been very effective for the Yankees which is obvious when you glance at his bloated 5.01 ERA. However, he has been doing something pretty well, and that is striking batters out.
Kelley is sitting batters down at an alarming rate thus far as he has amassed 38 strikeouts in only his first 23.1 innings. That is good for 14.7 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. To put that in perspective that leaves him only .28 shy of Eric Gagne‘s 2003 single-season record of 14.98 SO/9.
Kelley was capable of striking batters out during his first four seasons with the Mariners, but he never was even close to this prolific of a strikeout machine.
Here is a look at Kelley’s yearly SO/9 numbers along with the corresponding ERAs:
2009: 8.0 SO/9 - 4.50 ERA
2010: 9.4 SO/9 - 3.96 ERA
2011: 7.1 SO/9 - 0.00 ERA (Only 12.2 innings of work)
2012: 9.1 SO/9 - 3.25 ERA
2013: 14.7 SO/9 – 5.01 ERA
When looking at these numbers it becomes pretty obvious that Kelley has indeed taken a big step forward with his strikeout numbers this season. It is also quite apparent that his improvement in striking men out has been accompanied with a decline in his overall effectiveness as a pitcher.
If Kelley can find a way to keep the ball in the park better than what he is currently doing (1.9 HR/9), then there is a chance that he can become a very important part of this Yankees bullpen by the time that playoffs begin.