Strikeouts are up again in baseball this season, and yet with more pitchers being strikeout pitchers we see less pitchers with lengthy careers. There are a few “old school” pitchers out there though like Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Madison Bumgarner, and not to be outdone is CC Sabathia.
CC, in his 19th and already announced final season, became just the 17th member of the 3,000 strikeout club. Twenty four pitchers have won 300 games, and it has been 11 years since John Smoltz joined the 3K K Club in 2008. The length of this list might start dwindling soon. Justin Verlander should join it, with Max Scherzer a likely choice after that as he was 2,493.
After that though are only names that appear pretty done. Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez, Zach Greinke are all up in years and past their fireball dominating days. Only Chris Sale is 30 or younger and close on the list at around 1,900.
That said, this week Stephen Strasburg did reach 1,500 punch outs himself and in the lowest amount of games of anyone else. That is a bit deceptive, as his career has been marred by injuries since he came into the league in 2010. He has only broken 200 innings or 30 starts once (2014), and age typically makes it harder to stay healthy than easier. Still, it is worth noting that when he is healthy he is still all the dominant hype that led his career. It seems like he gets forgotten about sometimes when talking about the elite pitchers due to that injury history.
If Strasburg can average 175 strikeouts a season, it would take just 8.5 more seasons to reach 3,000. So not out of the question as that would be his age 39 season, but doubtful he will be able to pitch in enough games I think to get there.
In 2018 4 pitchers had 250 or more strikeouts, led of course by Scherzer who got to exactly 300. In 2013 this number was 2 and it was also in 2008 when Tim Lincecum led the league and Mr. CC was second that season.
The biggest factor against pitchers though is innings pitched. In 2008, 34 pitchers pitched 200 innings or more. In 2013 this number was still high at 36. Last year this number dwindled to just 13. So even as strikeouts overall are up, they will see a larger distribution across different pitchers as more pitchers are limited to just two lineup terms.
For CC, this milestone likely makes him a lock for the Hall of Fame if he wasn’t already. Nineteen seasons is a long time, and I still think what he did for the Brewers in 2008 after being traded to them down the stretch was amazing in helping them make the playoffs. He went 11-2 with the Brewers after being traded with a 1.65 ERA. His final three regular season starts were on three days rest including a complete game on the final day of the season to clinch the first Brewers playoff appearance in 26 years.
It was quite a run, and we don’t see many pitchers like CC anymore.