In 1982, the Milwaukee Brewers relief corps was lead by Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers and his AL MVP and Cy Young Award winning season. 36 years later, Corey Knebel is tearing through the league in his first year with 9th inning duties. How do the two compare?
Milwaukee Brewers current closer Corey Knebel probably won’t win a Cy Young Award. He would need about 45 guys to get hit by a bus to get close to a MVP award. Rollie Fingers earned both while rocking a truly epic mustache. But is Knebel having a better season?
What do the numbers say?
The numbers say that Corey Knebel is the better closer. Rollie Fingers is a Milwaukee Brewers icon, but that doesn’t mean another player can eclipse his best season. That’s exactly what Corey Knebel has done this year.
In 1981, Fingers posted a 1.04 ERA in 78 innings of work. That’s awesome. Corey Knebel has a 1.32 ERA in 68 innings. Fingers is slightly ahead here by default. Fingers earned 28 saves. Knebel has 35 with three more weeks to play. Fingers struck out 61 batters. Knebel is at 115 and counting. Fingers only walked 13 batters all year. Knebel walked 10 in June. Fingers posted a 2.6 WAR for the season. Knebel is already at 2.7 WAR and has 17 more games to go.
Rollie Fingers had superior control, but Knebel is the closer to go with by the numbers.
What about facial hair?
Even if Corey Knebel HAD a mustache, he wouldn’t come close to this. Fingers and it’s not close.
How about pure stuff?
Corey Knebel gets the nod. Fingers had a quality fastball/slider mix, but nothing compares to what Knebel is doing right now. Knebel’s fastball averages over 97 MPH and his curve ball is just as good as the best in the league.
Anything else we need to know about Fingers?
Yes. Fingers was essentially untouchable at County Stadium. When he threw at home, Fingers had a 0.25 ERA with only one run allowed in 21 appearances. He also got stronger as the season went on. His ERA in the second half of the 1981 season was only 0.72. He also had a 0.00 ERA in save opportunities in 1981. That’s 28 save opportunities, 41 innings, zero runs.
Does Knebel have anything close to that?
Sub-1.00 ERAs? He has a few stats like that. He was perfect in August with a 0.00 ERA in 15 1/3 innings. Knebel also owns a 0.72 ERA in the second half. He also recorded a strikeout in 46 consecutive appearances.
If the Milwaukee Brewers had to choose one to nail down a game, who do they call? Do they go with the force of nature in Corey Knebel, or the veteran presence of Rollie Fingers? If they have to choose 2017 Knebel or 1981 Fingers, there really isn’t a wrong choice. Both were fantastic seasons, one by a legend and the other by a pitcher whose story is still unfolding.