Who has the most strikeouts in mlb history? Each team’s all-time strikeout king

Who has the most strikeouts in mlb history? There isn’t much left to add to Clayton Kershaw’s resume that he hasn’t already — the future Hall of Famer is one of the greatest pitchers of all time and his spot in Cooperstown is all but assured. But the great left-hander reached a special milestone in 2022: the all-time Dodgers strikeout record. With a strikeout of Detroit’s rookie first baseman Spencer Torkelson in the fourth inning on April 30, Kershaw passed Don Sutton’s 2,696 strikeouts for the most in franchise history.

American League East

Blue Jays: Dave Stieb — 1,658

One of the most dominant starting pitchers of the 1980s, Stieb is famously remembered for losing a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning on three occasions, two of them coming in back-to-back starts in 1988. He finally got that elusive no-no in 1990, but he also holds the distinction of striking out more batters than anyone in Blue Jays history. The right-hander’s career-high in strikeouts was 198 in 1984, though his best season overall came in ’85, when he led the AL with a 2.48 ERA over 265 innings.

Orioles: Jim Palmer — 2,212

Outside of the great Tom Seaver, there was no more dominant pitcher during the decade of the 1970s than Palmer, who won three AL Cy Young Awards in four years from 1973-76. Although he never struck out 200 or more batters (his career-high was 199 in ’70), his consistent excellence resulted in a franchise strikeout record that hasn’t even come close to being matched — in second place on the all-time franchise list is Mike Mussina, who had 1,535 while wearing a Baltimore uniform. Palmer struck out 90 more in postseason play, to go along with a 2.61 postseason ERA and three World Series rings with the Orioles.

who has the most strikeouts in mlb history

Rays: James Shields — 1,250

Yes, he’ll be remembered for giving up Bartolo Colon’s lone home run. But Shields was a very dependable starter for Tampa Bay from 2007-12, a span over which his ERA was 3.80 and he made 196 starts. He averaged close to eight strikeouts per nine innings during that time, and the right-hander was an All-Star in 2011, when he posted a 2.82 ERA with a career-high 225 strikeouts and finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting.

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Red Sox: Roger Clemens — 2,590

Clemens, who won a record seven Cy Young Awards and struck out 4,672 batters, which is second all-time to only Nolan Ryan, fanned more than 200 batters in eight of his 13 seasons with Boston from 1984-96. He led the AL three times in that span (1988, ’91 and ’96), and led the Majors twice, in 1988 and ’91. In 1986, he won the first of three Cy Young Awards he’d win with the Red Sox, as well as the AL MVP Award. He set a Major League record by striking out 20 in a game in 1986, and accomplished the feat again in ’96 — that record has since been equaled three times, once each by Kerry Wood, Randy Johnson and Max Scherzer. Clemens would, of course, go on to more success with other clubs, but it was in Boston where he rose to superstardom.

Yankees: Andy Pettitte — 2,020

Just 64 strikeouts separate Pettitte from Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, who is second on the all-time strikeout list for the most storied franchise in baseball history. But Pettitte is at the top thanks to his consistency for the Yankees’ dynasty from 1996-2003, when they won four World Series titles, and again from 2007-13, when Pettitte helped New York win another World Series in ’09. The left-hander was runner-up in AL Cy Young Award voting in 1996, and his career-high for strikeouts was 180 in 2003.

AL Central

Guardians: Bob Feller — 2,581

If he didn’t miss three years serving his country in World War II, Feller would likely have finished his legendary Hall of Fame career with more than 3,000 strikeouts. Considered the hardest-throwing pitcher of his time, the right-hander’s first Major League start at the age of 17 portended things to come. On Aug. 23, 1936, he struck out 15 St. Louis Browns hitters in 4-1 complete-game victory. Then, after going back to high school for his senior year, Feller led the Majors with 240 strikeouts in 1938, the first of seven seasons in which he’d lead the Majors in strikeouts. His career-high was 348 in 1946, a season in which he completed 36 games. Feller also threw three no-hitters and holds the franchise record for most strikeouts in a game, with 18 against the Tigers on Oct. 2, 1938.

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Royals: Kevin Appier — 1,458

Appier was one of the best starting pitchers of the early-1990s, posting a 3.22 ERA for Kansas City from 1990-97, a period in which he recorded 1,354 of his 1,458 career strikeouts. The right-hander’s finest season came in ’93, when he finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting after pitching to a league-best 2.56 ERA over 238 2/3 innings. His career-high in strikeouts came three years later, however, when he fanned 207 batters in ’96.

Tigers: Mickey Lolich — 2,679

Lolich will forever be remembered in Tigers lore for being the MVP of the 1968 World Series, in which he stymied the Cardinals in three starts, posting a 1.67 ERA with 21 strikeouts and just six walks over 27 innings during Detroit’s seven-game victory. But the left-hander was also one of the greatest pitchers in franchise history, finishing his 13-season career as a Tiger with a 3.45 ERA and 2,679 strikeouts over 3,361 2/3 innings. His finest campaign was in 1971, when he led the Majors in wins (25), complete games (29), innings pitched (376) and strikeouts (a career-high 308) to finish second in AL Cy Young Award voting.

Twins: Walter Johnson — 3,509

“The Big Train” was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history, ranking ninth on the all-time strikeouts list and owner of the all-time record for shutouts, with 110. And that’s not even to mention his 417 wins and 2.17 ERA over a 21-year career with the Washington Senators, who moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961. The all-time strikeout leader for the Twins in the Minnesota era is Bert Blyleven, who fanned 2,035 batters in 11 years (two stints) with the club. Blyleven actually struck out more batters for his career than Johnson, fanning 1,666 batters over 11 seasons with the Rangers, Pirates, Cleveland and the Angels, for a total of 3,701 (fifth all-time).

White Sox: Billy Pierce — 1,796

Pierce is one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball history. He was a seven-time All-Star who had a 3.27 ERA over 18 Major League seasons, 13 of which were with the White Sox from 1949-61. He led the AL with 186 strikeouts in 1953, led the Majors with a 1.97 ERA in ’55, and led the league in complete games each year from 1956-58. Overall, Pierce finished one strikeout shy of 2,000 for his career, during which he also pitched for the Tigers and Giants.

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Angels: Nolan Ryan — 2,416

That’s already a ton of strikeouts, but we can make it even more impressive — Ryan only spent eight seasons with the Angels, giving him an average of 302 strikeouts per season in his time there. As an Angel, Ryan led the Majors in strikeouts seven times, made five All-Star teams, finished in the top three in Cy Young Award voting three times, and had each of his top five strikeout seasons (his career-high was a single-season record 383 in 1973).

Athletics: Eddie Plank — 1,985

Plank has held onto the A’s record for over 100 years, and his total was well-deserved. He debuted in 1901 as a 25-year-old and never once led the league in strikeouts, pitching to a 2.35 ERA over sixteen seasons. He was so prolific in his career — he made 458 starts, threw 362 complete games, and pitched 3860 2/3 innings – that he remains the top player in franchise history by WAR (77.2).

who has the most strikeouts in mlb history

Astros: Nolan Ryan — 1,866

There are only 30 active franchises in Major League Baseball, so what are the odds of one pitcher holding the strikeout records for two of them? We’re not sure, but they’re probably substantially higher when you hold the Major League record too, as Ryan does. With 5,714 K’s in a staggering 5,386 innings of work in his career, he is appropriately the only player to lead two franchises in the category.

Mariners: Félix Hernández — 2,524

For most of the 21st century, Hernández has been synonymous with Mariners baseball, perhaps more than anyone not named Ichiro. The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner also finished in the top ten of AL Cy Young Award voting five times, made six All-Star teams and won two ERA titles. While Hernández has since left Seattle, and hasn’t pitched in Majors since 2019, he has still only officially pitched for the Mariners. Hernández’s record is likely going to stand for some time, as the closest active pitcher on the list — James Paxton at 619 — is no longer with the organization.

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