There are numerous outcomes that can occur in a major league plate appearance. From a base hit to a sacrifice bunt, followed abruptly by the dreaded home run, to ultimately put a visiting team up 2-0.
But to avoid that offensive explosion and overall productivity you need somebody with a little pizazz and a talented arm.
The strikeout is single handily the greatest outcome for any man standing on that 10" elevated plane. The strikeout not only gets you 33 percent closer to your goal of getting out of the half-inning, it also halts the opposing offense's efficiency in producing runs. That is why it takes a special kind of pitcher to achieve these feat’s.
In compiling my top five list of the greatest strikeout pitchers in baseball there were a couple of key concepts that I took into account. Though there were many notable pitchers during the early 1900s the fact that the game was not completely integrated at the time played a huge factor in making this list.
Also during that time period pitchers were asked to pitch an ungodly amount of innings. Though it showed a true testament of their athletic endurance, its just by sure logic that the more innings you pitched the more strikeout opportunities you had, thus making it less as impressive.
So after all the eye-bleeding research, here is the list from top to bottom.
All Aboard! It just wouldn't be right if the Nolan Ryan Express didn't shuttle us through the beginning of this list. This power throwing right-handed pitcher is the all-time strikeout champ (5,714), recording seven no-hitters, 12 one-hitters and 18 two-hitters.
That is efficiency at its finest, a result of his uncanny ability to avoid that confrontation between the sweet-spot of the bat and the ball. His 383 strikeouts in a single season is the most by any pitcher after 1900.
Over the course of his 27-year Hall-of-Fame career, Ryan struck out 200 batters a major league record 15 times as well as 300 batters six times even though he never won a Cy-Young Award. Oh and did I mention the guy can throw a punch?
What do you get when you combine a 6'10" frame, a nasty gameday attitude and a once 100 mph fastball complemented by a still deadly slider coming in from the left side of the plate? Anybody, anybody?
Unless you have been living on another planet you should have answered Randy Johnson. "The Big Unit" thus far over his 21 year career has amassed 4,789 strikeouts, good enough to put him second on the all-time leader board.
Johnson averages more strikeouts per nine innings for anyone on this list at 10.4, pretty ridiculous considering number one is at a 9.7 mark respectively. With 1,347 less innings pitch than Ryan it 's just a matter of time, taking health into account that Johnson will soon become the all-time strikeout leader.
Keep in mind all of these stats have been compiled despite facing juiced-out steroid infested batters.
Following this dominate lefty is another devastating southpaw in Sandy Koufax. Koufax despite only playing 12 major league seasons compiled 2,396 strikeouts while averaging 10 strikeouts per nine innings. At the end of the 1965 season, Koufax recorded a record high 382 strikeouts.
That was until Ryan came along to beat it by only one in 1973. This three-time Cy-Young Award winner was the first to pitch four no-hitters, and is on a very short list of players who have recorded more strikeouts than innings pitched.
He did all of that while facing arguably the games best hitters in a golden long-ball era, all while holding batters to a .205 average.
If his career wasn't limited by injury there would be a strong case for him to be higher on this list.
Next on this list is yet another left-handed pitching product in Steve Carlton. I know your most likely thinking that I'm a lefty, as well as the last three players stated, but I’m not.
I'm a right-handed writer typing this article with a completely bias heart, going strictly off the numbers, and Carlton's numbers don't lie. Carlton is fourth on this list as well as fourth on the all-time leader board with 4,136 career punch outs.
Throughout Carlton's career he was a model of consistency recording more that 160 strikeouts for 18 consecutive years. In that span he had eight 200 plus strikeout years. In those 18 years he was less than 10 strikeouts shy of breaking the 200 mark four times. It must be something about those lefties huh?
It’s a shame to put this next hurler at the bottom of this list, but with all of the swirling controversy surrounding him it wouldn't be right to put him any higher.
Roger Clemens despite recent controversy has all the numbers necessary to match up against any of these previous players listed. En route to compiling 4,762 strikeouts over a 24-year career Clemens is an 11-time All-Star and seven time Cy-Young Award winner.
In 1986 while with the Boston Red Sox Clemens set the single game record for most strikeouts in a game with 20, repeating that mark 10 years later. Over his career Clemens averaged 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings to go along with a career 3.12 ERA, improving his potential Hall of Fame credentials.
If it wasn't for the Mitchell Report the Rocket would have no question propelled to the Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility, but for now he will have to settle with being last on this list humble list.
There they all are, I would have liked to expand it to 10 but due restraints on a readers interest and eyes I shortened it to just five. Now just imagine if we were to have a five man rotation consisting of these players. That would be 21,707 strikeouts to go along with 20 Cy-Young’s. Can we say championship?
Next of kin: Johan Santana, Jake Peavy, Tim Lincecum, Francisco Liriano.