37 Years Ago Today, Nolan Ryan Became the Strikeout King of MLB (A Title He'll Probably Hold Forever)

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37 Years Ago Today, Nolan Ryan Became the Strikeout King of MLB (A Title He’ll Probably Hold Forever)

Baseball Is Fun

Despite our existence in arguably the greatest strikeout era of all-time, there have been just five (5) individual seasons over the past decade, wherein a starting pitcher has recorded at least 300 strikeouts.

I’m guessing you’ll recognize their names and performances …

1. Gerrit Cole (2019): 326
2. Chris Sale (2017): 308
3. Clayton Kershaw (2015): 301
4. Max Scherzer (2018): 300
5. Justin Verlander (2019): 300

Extend that window another decade (dating back to 2000), and just one more pitcher, Randy Johnson, enters the list for his three consecutive 300+ strikeout contributions from 2000-2003. So altogether, there have been just eight 300+ strikeout seasons over the past two decades, with just six different pitchers accomplishing the feat – only one of whom did it more than once.

Well, MLB’s all-time strikeout king, Nolan Ryan, recorded at least 300 strikeouts in SIX seasons throughout his big league career (1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, and 1989) on his way to a grand total of 5,714 strikeouts. But 2,205 strikeouts before his final K, Ryan broke the previous record held by Walter Johnson.

On this date in 1983, Nolan Ryan took over a mantle that may well be his forever:

Consider this, Nolan Ryan’s record-holding 5,714 strikeouts is an unbelievable 839 strikeouts better than the guy in second place …

MLB’s All-Time Strikeout Leader Board:

1. Nolan Ryan: 5,714
2. Randy Johnson: 4,875
3. Roger Clemens: 4,672
4. Steve Carlton: 4,136
5. Bert Blyleven: 3,701
6. Tom Seaver: 3,640
7. Don Sutton: 3,574
8. Gaylord Perry: 3,545
9. Walter Johnson: 3,509
10. Greg Maddux: 3,371

Do you see how dominant he was? Including Ryan, there have been only 18 pitchers in the 3,000 strikeout club and only 4 in the 4,000 club. Ryan, meanwhile, stands alone in the 5,000 club, less than 300 away from 6K!

There are plenty of feats that feel generally untouchable in the old MLB record book, but this may be the safest among them.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami