Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

Jake Arrieta struck out seven batters in six innings of work in Friday’s 6-1 win against the Brewers, but it was a first-inning punchout of Logan Schafer that was one for the history books:

Strikeout No. 1,405 was a record-breaker for the Cubs, whose pitching staff broke the National League record for strikeouts which was set by the 2003 Cubs — who whiffed 1,404 batters en route to winning 88 games and the NL Central title.

That revered pitching staff starred the two most prolific strikeout pitchers in the NL, with Kerry Wood (266) and Mark Prior (245) ranking first and second that season. In fact, the Cubs had four of the top 13 strikeout pitchers in the NL in their rotation with Matt Clement (171) and Carlos Zambrano (168) ranking 11th and 13th, respectively. The quartet of Wood, Prior, Clement and Zambrano racked up 850 strikeouts, representing 60.5 percent of the staff’s strikeouts  that season.

After last night’s game, the Cubs’ 1,425 strikeouts is the most in baseball. And unless Cubs pitchers can rack up 25 strikeouts today, the Indians’ MLB record of 1,450, set in 2014, will be safe.

As for the 2015 Cubs, they boast three of the top-15 strikeout pitchers in the NL, including two pitchers with 200 strikeouts or more. Arrieta (236) leads the way, while Jon Lester’s 207 recently broke Ken Holtzman’s record for strikeouts by a left-handed Cubs pitcher. Jason Hammel’s 172 strikeouts (in 170.2 innings) ranks 15th in the league.

When we look back at this record in the years to come, Kyle Hendricks will likely be the most surprising contributor to the 2015 team’s strikeout mark.

Hendricks’ 167 strikeouts were a welcome surprise and a nice weapon to have for an arm that mostly relies on location and ground ball outs. After posting a 5.27 K/9 as a rookie, Hendricks saw that number jump to 8.35 in his first full season in The Show.

It might be hard to believe that the 2015 staff might be slightly better than the team it passed in the record books. The era plays a part in the discussion, of course, but still: the 2015 team has a higher K/9 rate (8.82 to 8.68), K/BB rate (3.50 to 2.28) and lower BB/9 (2.52 to 3.81).

Limiting walks while getting more outs without batters putting balls in play is one way to go about putting together a quality pitching staff.

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