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Clayton KershawYear: 2015Kershaw entered his final start of the year needing six strikeouts to reach the 300 plateau, and he was efficient in getting there, reaching the mark within the first 10 Padres he faced. Walter JohnsonYears: 1910, 1912Johnson's fastball was truly unprecedented when he came on the scene late in 1907, and he used that to his advantage for years to come. And don't forget the one game that didn't count: When Martinez punched out five of the six batters he faced in an electric All-Star Game performance at Fenway Park. [7] The largest margin of victory for a champion is 156 strikeouts, achieved in 1883 when Tim Keefe of the American Association's New York Metropolitans posted 359 against Bobby Mathews' 203. And this wasn't just the case of a pitcher trying to throw as hard as he could; Martinez walked just 37 hitters the entire year. "His fastball looked about the size of a watermelon seed," Ty Cobb once said of Johnson, "and it hissed at you as it passed.". Control issues would keep McDowell from reaching that kind of level, but he did top 300 strikeouts once more in a 305-inning season with Cleveland in 1970. "I've never been afraid at the plate, but Mr. Ryan makes me uncomfortable," said Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson. But when Waddell focused his attention toward the catcher, he could be downright dominant. That stood as baseball's single-season record for more than half a century before Koufax surpassed Waddell in '65. [8] Three players have won seven strikeout championships: Dazzy Vance, who leads the National League;[9] Bob Feller;[10] and Lefty Grove. Sandy Koufax, LHPYears: 1963, 1965, 1966"The Left Arm of God" was a completely appropriate nickname in the eyes of Koufax's opponents, as they watched impossibly hard fastballs rain down alongside hissing curveballs from the pitcher's mound. Ryan averaged one strikeout per each inning of a ballgame, first through ninth, which might be the best stat to show his dogged determination to sit down each and every hitter he faced. He worked hard for the honors in '71, leading the Majors with a total of 376 innings that has been topped just one time since. Ryan came to strike you out. 300. Ryan: 5,714 Still, Lefty's 310 K's in his debut season with the Phillies took his career to a new level. Whipping his high-90s fastball and biting slider seemingly from first base, Johnson wiped out batter after batter in an astonishing run through a remarkable renaissance in his 30s and early 40s. McDowell's punchout prowess inspired Sports Illustrated to feature him on its cover in May 1966 with the headline "Faster than Koufax?" Ryan finished the season with a 16-10 record and a 3.20 ERA., and led the American League in strikeouts with 301. Bob FellerYear: 1946Feller's fastball ranks among the most revered in baseball history, and few could touch it in 1946. All rights reserved. "He had that tremendous fastball that would rise, and a great curveball that started at the eyes and broke to the ankles. "That's special," Sale said of joining Martinez in the Red Sox's 300-K club.

Randy Johnson, LHPYears: 1993, '98, '99, '00, '01, '02Few pitchers have ever intimidated on a mound as much as The Big Unit, and once the 6-foot-10 Johnson corralled the wildness that plagued him in Montreal and his first years in Seattle, it was lights out for hitters. [27] The National League's largest margin was achieved in 1999, when Randy Johnson struck out 143 more batters than Kevin Brown. Single-Season SO Leaders:1.Matt Kilroy/513/1886, 2.Toad Ramsey/499/1886, … His 11 … While baseball's obsession with round numbers runs deep, there's little denying the significance of a 300-strikeout season (even in today's K-friendly climate for pitchers). Must read content, player grades, stuff you can't get anywhere else. Cole put together four starts of at least 14 Ks on his way to 300, while challenging Pedro Martinez’s 1999 record for single-season strikeout rate. Sports Illustrated featured Blue in his day-glo yellow A's uniform in mid-May, labeling him the "hottest" pitcher of them all. [7] Randy Johnson won nine strikeout titles, including five with his home state Arizona Diamondbacks.

Subscribe now to get full access to the new sports page. Nolan Ryan, RHP Years: 1972, '73, '74, '76, '77, '89 Before Johnson came along, it was hard to foresee any pitcher striking out as many hitters over as many years as The Ryan Express. [20] However, his name does not appear on Major League Baseball's single-season leaders list,[21] since the American Association was independent of the constituent leagues that currently make up Major League Baseball. A pitcher earns a strikeout when he puts out the batter he is facing by throwing a ball through the strike zone, "defined as that area over homeplate (sic) the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap",[2] which is not put in play. Mickey LolichYear: 1971Lolich's 308 strikeouts in 1971 probably aren't the most memorable achievement of his career -- that would be his three complete-game victories over Bob Gibson and the Cardinals in the '68 World Series -- an indication as to how talented Lolich was in his prime. If you can't see it, come on back.". In such a difficult era to play, I would have to say that's the highlight.". "He was a lot like me when I was younger. His most unbreakable record is likely his 2,795 career walks, which are a whopping 52 percent higher than runner-up Steve Carlton’s 1,833.
In his first full season back from World War II, "Rapid Robert" racked up 348 strikeouts to finish one shy of Waddell's record at the time. Koufax came to beat you.

"I told Randy he could be the most dominating pitcher in baseball if he would just work on his game," fellow Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan said in 1992. Most strikeouts. [4] The American League's first winner was Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young, who captured the American League Triple Crown in 1901 by striking out 158 batters, along with leading the league in wins and earned run average. [6] He is followed by Nolan Ryan, who captured 11 titles between both leagues (9 American League and 2 National League). The southpaw paced the nascent AL in strikeouts six years in a row (and led the Majors in each of those last five seasons), peaking with 349 for the Philadelphia A's in '04. While baseball's obsession with round numbers runs deep, there's little denying the significance of a 300-strikeout season (even in today's K-friendly climate for pitchers). Every game, every inning, every hitter for 25 seasons, Ryan went for the strikeout. To surpass Ryan’s 5,714 career strikeouts, a pitcher would have to average 286 a year for 20 years — Ryan pitched for 27 seasons, of course, another record. Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.

"We all know that's about as good a company as you can get. The lefty peaked with 382 strikeouts in his penultimate 1965 campaign, a Major League record until Ryan did his idol one better in '73. The righty struck out at least one Miami hitter in each of the first six frames, and capped off the performance with a lengthy seventh-inning battle against Marlins left fielder Austin Dean. Mike ScottYear: 1986Scott and his split-fingered fastball were so dominant in 1986 that the Mets accused him of scuffing the baseball during the NL Championship Series. Ellis.

After 10 pitches, Scherzer got Dean to swing through a slider for strike three, earning a standing ovation from the Nationals Park crowd.
He was just pitching and not doing a lot of thinking.". The Only Nolan: Ryan’s single-season strikeout record is now one of MLB’s most unbreakable. His 33 walks in 2002 represent the fewest of any of the 300-strikeout seasons on this list, and all three of his 300-K campaigns rank within the top 10 of that list. Like Ryan, hitters could never really get comfortable in the box against McDowell, who led the Majors in walks on five occasions. The Dominican righty led the Majors with a 1.90 ERA and struck out 305 to capture the 1997 NL Cy Young Award -- the first of his celebrated career. "I was counting from the first strikeout of the game. Steve CarltonYear: 1972Cartlon's strikeout reputation was well established by 1972; he had set the single-game record with 19 strikeouts for the Cardinals three years prior. The 1,746 strikeouts Johnson accumulated in a five-year period from 1998-2002 might remain unmatched for a long, long time. But Houston's righty really put it all together seven years later, when he placed fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting with a 3.11 ERA and an MLB-most 303 strikeouts. "The triple crown as a pitcher, you can't top it. That made him the first AL pitcher to reach 300 since Martinez in 1999, and just the second southpaw after Johnson to hit the mark since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973. [26] Therefore, Major League Baseball recognizes his runner-up from that season, Charlie Buffinton, as the record-holder with 417 strikeouts. [22] Several other players with high totals, including 1886 American Association runner-up Toad Ramsey (499)[23] and 1884 Union Association leader Hugh Daily (483), do not appear either. Being here and having that name thrown around is special to me; I don't take it lightly.". "It was frightening," said Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who famously stated that Koufax would tip his pitches but batters still couldn't hit them.

"Sometimes I hit him like I used to hit Koufax," Hall of Famer Willie Stargell once said of Carlton, "and that's like drinking coffee with a fork.". ©2020 The Athletic Media Company. Verlander got his 300-strikeout season in the same start that he joined the 3,000-strikeout club. His seven no-hitters are nearly double the amount thrown by any other pitcher in major-league history (Sandy Koufax is the only other pitcher as many as four). [5] Walter Johnson led the American League in strikeouts 12 times during his Hall of Fame career, most among all players. In his first full season as a Major League hurler, Blue compiled an AL-best 1.82 ERA and a Major League-best eight shutouts to go along with his 301 punchouts, topped that year only by Lolich. But he also racked up five AL strikeout crowns with the Indians, beginning with a breakout 325-strikeout campaign in 1965. His 37.5 percent strikeout rate that year is the best by any qualified starter, as is his 11.6 fWAR, while his 1.39 FIP rating in '99 ranks second behind Christy Mathewson (1.29) way back in '08.

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