Saturday August 27, 2016
The 300-Strikeout Pitchers
Sandy, Randy, and He.
First, here's the bigger trivia question. It's the one baseball fans can really mull over and have fun with at a bar with a friend:
Name the 15 pitchers in the modern era (post-1900) who have struck out 300 or more batters in a season.
Some you'll get right away (Koufax, Ryan, Randy, Feller). Some take a while (Richard, Schilling). Some you might not get (Blue, Scott).
Here are a few follow-up trivia questions that I think are a little more interesting:
- In which three decades of the modern era did no pitcher strike out 300 batters in a season?
- In which decade did the most pitchers strike out 300 batters?
- Who was the first pitcher to strike out 300 or more batters in different decades?
- 1920s, '30s, '50s
- 1970s: six pitchers, 11 times (no other decade is close)
- Sudden Sam McDowell: 1965, 1970
Here's the chart:
|1900s||2||Rube Waddell (2)|
|1910s||2||Walter Johnson (2)|
|1960s||4||Sandy Koufax (3)||Sam McDowell|
|1970s||11||Sam McDowell||Mickey Lolich||Vida Blue|
|Steve Carlton||Nolan Ryan (5)||J.R. Richard (2)|
|1980s||2||Mike Scott||Nolan Ryan|
|1990s||7||Randy Johnson (3)||Curt Schilling (2)||Pedro Martinez (2)|
|2000s||4||Randy Johnson (3)||Curt Schilling|
What happened in the 1970s? I assume it's some combo of the easy targets from expansion franchises (four joined MLB in 1969) and starting ptichers going long into games; before the rise of relief specialists. In the '90s the whiffs went up all around baseball, and you had three dominant strikeout pitchers that tended to last long into games, but since then (despite all the Ks) we've entered a fallow 300-K period again.
The fallowest period was the first six decades of the 20th century, when only three pitchers managed to strike out 300+ in a season: Waddell, Johnson, Feller. Then expansion came, Koufax arrived, and we were off to the races.
Last year we had Kershaw squeaking over with 301. This year, with a month to go, Max Scherzer, helped by a 20-strikeout perfromance against Detroit in July, leads the Majors with 227. That's 73 away. He averages about 8.4 Ks per game and looks to have another seven or so games to pitch. That's about 15 short. And the Nats have no more games scheduled against Detroit.