The Bill Chuck Files: 250 strikeouts is the new mark of pitching dominance

by Bill Chuck on February 13, 2013

Three hundred strikeouts at one time was the mark of pitching dominance.

Yesterday, the terrific duo of Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin, , co-hosts of “Power Alley“ on MLB Network Radio, were discussing the possibility and improbability of a pitcher this coming season reaching the 300 whiff mark. Names suggested and basically rejected included Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer.

You see, to reach the 300 strikeout mark you need over 10 strikeouts per 9 innings and you need to throw enough innings. Today, the former is difficult, the latter is unlikely.

Take a look at the 300 whiffers over the last 50 seasons

Rk Year #
1 2002 2 Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling
2 1999 2 Randy Johnson / Pedro Martinez
3 1998 2 Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling
4 1997 2 Pedro Martinez / Curt Schilling
5 1972 2 Steve Carlton / Nolan Ryan
6 1971 2 Vida Blue / Mickey Lolich
7 1965 2 Sandy Koufax / Sam McDowell
8 2001 1 Randy Johnson
9 2000 1 Randy Johnson
10 1993 1 Randy Johnson
11 1989 1 Nolan Ryan
12 1986 1 Mike Scott
13 1979 1 J.R. Richard
14 1978 1 J.R. Richard
15 1977 1 Nolan Ryan
16 1976 1 Nolan Ryan
17 1974 1 Nolan Ryan
18 1973 1 Nolan Ryan
19 1970 1 Sam McDowell
20 1966 1 Sandy Koufax
21 1963 1 Sandy Koufax
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2013.

Now take a look at the number of pitchers with 250 IP over the last 50 seasons

Rk Year #
1 1974 34
2 1971 33
3 1973 32
4 1975 27
5 1972 27
6 1970 27
7 1976 24
8 1969 24
9 1978 22
10 1968 21
11 1965 18
12 1985 17
13 1980 17
14 1967 17
15 1966 17
16 1963 17
17 1977 15
18 1979 14
19 1964 14
20 1987 13
21 1982 13
22 1983 12
23 1986 11
24 1988 10
25 1984 9
26 1993 8
27 1989 7
28 1992 6
29 1997 5
30 1998 4
31 1996 4
32 1991 3
33 2002 2
34 1999 2
35 2011 1
36 2010 1
37 2008 1
38 2004 1
39 2003 1
40 2001 1
41 2000 1
42 1990 1
43 2012 0
44 2009 0
45 2007 0
46 2006 0
47 2005 0
48 1995 0
49 1994 0
50 1981 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2013.

Here are the pitchers with 300 strikeouts and 250 IP over the last 50 seasons

Rk Year #Matching
1 2002 2 Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling
2 1972 2 Steve Carlton / Nolan Ryan
3 1971 2 Vida Blue / Mickey Lolich
4 1965 2 Sandy Koufax / Sam McDowell
5 1999 1 Randy Johnson
6 1998 1 Curt Schilling
7 1997 1 Curt Schilling
8 1993 1 Randy Johnson
9 1986 1 Mike Scott
10 1979 1 J.R. Richard
11 1978 1 J.R. Richard
12 1977 1 Nolan Ryan
13 1976 1 Nolan Ryan
14 1974 1 Nolan Ryan
15 1973 1 Nolan Ryan
16 1970 1 Sam McDowell
17 1966 1 Sandy Koufax
18 1963 1 Sandy Koufax
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2013.

As you can see there is a direct correlation between the 300 striker-outers and 250 IP.

So, how many pitchers pitched 250 innings last season?

ZERO

Here are the 2012 IP leaders with their strikeout totals

Rk Player IP SO
1 Justin Verlander 238.1 239
2 R.A. Dickey 233.2 230
3 Felix Hernandez 232.0 223
4 Clayton Kershaw 227.2 229
5 James Shields 227.2 223
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2013.

If 300 strikeouts are out of the equation, perhaps 275 strikeouts is the new measure of dominance.

Here are the pitchers who picked up 275 Ks in a season over the last 25 years

Rk Year #
1 1997 4 Roger Clemens / Randy Johnson / Pedro Martinez / Curt Schilling
2 2002 2 Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling
3 2001 2 Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling
4 2000 2 Randy Johnson / Pedro Martinez
5 1999 2 Randy Johnson / Pedro Martinez
6 1998 2 Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling
7 2004 1 Randy Johnson
8 1996 1 John Smoltz
9 1995 1 Randy Johnson
10 1993 1 Randy Johnson
11 1989 1 Nolan Ryan
12 1988 1 Roger Clemens
13 1986 1 Mike Scott
14 1984 1 Dwight Gooden
15 1983 1 Steve Carlton
16 2012 0
17 2011 0
18 2010 0
19 2009 0
20 2008 0
21 2007 0
22 2006 0
23 2005 0
24 2003 0
25 1994 0
26 1992 0
27 1991 0
28 1990 0
29 1987 0
30 1985 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/12/2013.

Since there hasn’t been a 275 strikeout pitcher since 2004. it appears as if that level may also be unreachable.

Which means…

250 strikeouts is the new measure of dominance.

Here are the pitchers with 250Ks in a season over the last 25 years

Rk Year #
1 1998 5 Kevin Brown / Roger Clemens / Randy Johnson / Pedro Martinez / Curt Schilling
2 2004 4 Randy Johnson / Johan Santana / Jason Schmidt / Ben Sheets
3 1997 4 Roger Clemens / Randy Johnson / Pedro Martinez / Curt Schilling
4 1987 3 Roger Clemens / Mark Langston / Nolan Ryan
5 2009 2 Tim Lincecum / Justin Verlander
6 2008 2 Tim Lincecum / CC Sabathia
7 2002 2 Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling
8 2001 2 Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling
9 2000 2 Randy Johnson / Pedro Martinez
10 1999 2 Randy Johnson / Pedro Martinez
11 1996 2 Roger Clemens / John Smoltz
12 2011 1 Justin Verlander
13 2003 1 Kerry Wood
14 1995 1 Randy Johnson
15 1993 1 Randy Johnson
16 1992 1 David Cone
17 1989 1 Nolan Ryan
18 1988 1 Roger Clemens
19 1986 1 Mike Scott
20 1985 1 Dwight Gooden
21 1984 1 Dwight Gooden
22 1983 1 Steve Carlton
23 2012 0
24 2010 0
25 2007 0
26 2006 0
27 2005 0
28 1994 0
29 1991 0
30 1990 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2013.

Here are the 300 strikeout pitchers over the last 25 years

Year #Matching
2002 2 Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling
1999 2 Randy Johnson / Pedro Martinez
1998 2 Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling
1997 2 Pedro Martinez / Curt Schilling
2001 1 Randy Johnson
2000 1 Randy Johnson
1993 1 Randy Johnson
1989 1 Nolan Ryan
1986 1 Mike Scott
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2013.

Here are the 275-299 strikeout pitchers over the last 25 years

Rk Year #Matching
1 1997 2 Roger Clemens / Randy Johnson
2 2004 1 Randy Johnson
3 2001 1 Curt Schilling
4 2000 1 Pedro Martinez
5 1996 1 John Smoltz
6 1995 1 Randy Johnson
7 1988 1 Roger Clemens
8 1984 1 Dwight Gooden
9 1983 1 Steve Carlton
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2013.

Here are the 250-274 strikeout pitchers over the last 25 years

Rk Year #Matching
1 2004 3 Johan Santana / Jason Schmidt / Ben Sheets
2 1998 3 Kevin Brown / Roger Clemens / Pedro Martinez
3 1987 3 Roger Clemens / Mark Langston / Nolan Ryan
4 2009 2 Tim Lincecum / Justin Verlander
5 2008 2 Tim Lincecum / CC Sabathia
6 2011 1 Justin Verlander
7 2003 1 Kerry Wood
8 1996 1 Roger Clemens
9 1992 1 David Cone
10 1985 1 Dwight Gooden
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2013.

Here are the 230-249 strikeout pitchers over the last 25 seasons

Rk Year #Matching
1 2012 3 R.A. Dickey / Max Scherzer / Justin Verlander
2 2011 3 Clayton Kershaw / Cliff Lee / CC Sabathia
3 2010 3 Felix Hernandez / Tim Lincecum / Jered Weaver
4 2007 3 Scott Kazmir / Jake Peavy / Johan Santana
5 1986 3 Roger Clemens / Mark Langston / Fernando Valenzuela
6 2009 2 Zack Greinke / Javier Vazquez
7 2003 2 Mark Prior / Javier Vazquez
8 1997 2 Hideo Nomo / John Smoltz
9 1991 2 Roger Clemens / David Cone
10 1990 2 David Cone / Nolan Ryan
11 1989 2 Roger Clemens / Mark Langston
12 1987 2 Teddy Higuera / Mike Scott
13 1983 2 Jack Morris / Mario Soto
14 2008 1 A.J. Burnett
15 2006 1 Johan Santana
16 2005 1 Johan Santana
17 2004 1 Oliver Perez
18 2002 1 Pedro Martinez
19 1998 1 Kerry Wood
20 1996 1 Hideo Nomo
21 1995 1 Hideo Nomo
22 1992 1 Randy Johnson
23 1988 1 Mark Langston
24 1984 1 Fernando Valenzuela
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2013.

This is not sabermetrics, just plain and simple stats, and a sign of the times.

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  • Lily

    If Verlander pitched in the NL, he might have a shot. If Strasburg could manage 225+ innings, he might also have a chance. Otherwise, I don’t see 300 strikeouts happening anytime soon.

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