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Maddux's 3K Ks Redux
2005-07-27 21:05
by Mike Carminati
"Sounds great, Greg"
—Bobby Brady's rote response to his brother in the sublime "Brady Brunch"

Greg Maddux yesterday became the thirteenth man to record 3000 strikeouts and the third active member of the club (Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson being the other two). It's just another item in a Hall of Fame resume and perhaps it's the oddest one.

Maddux has only 85 strikeouts so far this year which projects to 134 over the entire season. He hasn't broken 170 K since 2001. His career high is 204 in 1998, they only year that he amassed at least 200.

I thought that 200 was a nice round figure since 300 is almost out of reach for all but the top strikeout guys. There have been only 63 300-K seasons in baseball history, and only one over the course of four whole decades (1920s to 1950s). There have been nearly 500 pitchers who collected at least 200 strikeouts in a season and 41 already in this decade. Here's a completely unnecessary table to illustrate all this:

Decade300K seasons200K seasons

Anyway, now armed with my arbitrary 200-K threshold, I sally forth. Maddux has the most career Ks by far of any pitcher who registered 200+ Ks in just one season:

Name200K yrsYrs%Career KFirstLast
Greg Maddux1195%300119862005
Jerry Koosman1205%255619671985
Dennis Eckersley1254%240119751998
Charlie Hough1264%236219701994
Lefty Grove1176%226619251941
Vida Blue1176%217519691986
Bobo Newsom1293%208219291953
Kevin Appier1186%199419892004
Whitey Ford1166%195619501967
Bobby Witt1195%195519862001
Frank Viola1166%184419821996
Sid Fernandez1166%174319831997
Dave Stewart1195%174119781995
Floyd Bannister1157%172319771992
Rick Sutcliffe1195%167919761994
Vic Willis1138%165118981910
Al Downing1186%163919611977
Mike Cuellar1157%163219591977
Steve Rogers1138%162119731985
Jack Powell1176%162118971912

As for the pitchers with the most career Ks who never struck out 200 in a season:

NameCareer K
Warren Spahn2583
Robin Roberts2357
Early Wynn2334
Tom Glavine2245
Tommy John2245
Jim Palmer2212
Dennis Martinez2149
David Wells2037
Rick Reuschel2015
Orel Hershiser2014
Catfish Hunter2012
Andy Benes2000
Billy Pierce1999
Red Ruffing1987
Bob Welch1969
Danny Darwin1942
Jerry Reuss1907
Jamie Moyer1846
John Burkett1766
Rudy May1760
Joe Niekro1747
Tom Candiotti1735
Bob Friend1734
Tom Gordon1733
Milt Pappas1728

OK, now that I've taken the plunge, here are the least career Ks for any pitcher who struck out at least 200 in a season at least once:

Name200K yrsYrs%Career KFirstLast
James Burke1333%25618821884
Bill Wise1333%27718821886
Bill Stemmeyer1425%29518851888
Bob Emslie1425%36218831885
Billy Taylor1911%37618811887
Bill Sweeney1250%42218821884
Floyd Youmans1520%42419851989
George Derby1333%42818811883
Al Atkinson1520%43518841887
Earl Moseley1425%46919131916
Larry McKeon1425%47418841886
Charlie Sweeney1617%50518831887
Bob Johnson1714%50719691977
Phenomenal Smith1128%51918841891
Lee Richmond1617%55218791886

The three at the top of this list were Union Association specials. The UA is probably the least qualified league ever to be considered a "major" league. Other than an odd Youmans or Bob Johnson, the vast majority of these players came from the 1880s. There were a number of rule changes being instituted at this time:

1876: "The batsman, on taking his position, must call for a 'high,' 'low,' or 'fair' pitch, and the umpire shall notify the pitcher to deliver the ball as required; such a call cannot be changed after the first pitch is delivered."

High - pitches over the plate between the batter's waist and shoulders

Low - pitches over the plate between the batter's waist and at least one foot from the ground.

Fair - pitches over the plate between the batter's shoulders and at least one foot from the ground.

1887: - "The batter can no longer call for a 'high' or 'low' pitch.

"A (strike) is defined as a pitch that 'passes over home plate not lower than the batsman's knee, nor higher than his shoulders.'"

1881: The pitching distance: 50'.

1886: The pitcher's box: 4' x 7'.

1887: The pitcher's box: 4' x 5.5'.

1893: The pitching distance: 60'6" (present distance). The pitcher's box replaced by the rubber (12" x 4").

Finally, here are the pitchers who have had the highest percentage of 200-K seasons. I'm ignoring 2005 since it's incomplete. Three current pitchers lead the pack with Kerry Wood setting the pace with his being able to reach the mark in two-thirds of his seasons yet far. Toad Ramsey comes next and he is the owner of the second-highest single-season strikeout total in baseball history, 499 in 1886, but his career was over at age 26. Sweeney is another UA ex-pat. "Cannonball" Morris's career went out with his fire at age 27 (only 25 Ks in 144.1 in his final season toiling in the Players League of all places):
Name200K yrsYrs%Career KFirstLast
Kerry Wood4667%120919982004
Randy Johnson121963%416119882004
Pedro Martinez81362%265319922004
Toad Ramsey4757%151518851890
Roger Clemens122157%431719842004
Nolan Ryan152756%571419661993
Bob Gibson91753%311719591975
Bill Sweeney1250%42218821884
Roy Oswalt2450%66620012004
Amos Rusie51050%193418891901
Sandy Koufax61250%239619551966
Tom Seaver102245%364019671986
Mickey Lolich71644%283219631979
Ed Morris3743%121718841890
Rube Waddell61443%231618971910
Don Drysdale61443%248619561969
J.R. Richard41040%149319711980
Tim Keefe61540%256218801893
John Clarkson51338%197818821894
Juan Marichal61638%230319601975
Sam McDowell61638%245319611975
Charley Radbourn41136%183018811891
Hideo Nomo41136%185619952004
Ed Walsh51436%173619041917

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