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10 Best Strikeout Pitchers of All Time

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10 Best Strikeout Pitchers of All Time
Randy Johnson recorded 4,875 strikeouts during his major league career, the most of any left-hander in history. John W. McDonough/SI

Throughout MLB history, we've marveled at strikeout artists like Bob Gibson and Randy Johnson who get extraordinary results. How high do they belong on an all-time list of effective and untouchable pitchers? 

Those two adjectives aren't synonymous in baseball. Consider Greg Maddux, Jim Palmer and Cy Young, all of whom adopted finesse styles and intentionally induced contact.

Plainly ranking the sport's legends by strikeout ability—or SO/9 (strikeouts per nine innings)—would be inappropriate. The league average has gradually increased over the past three decades, as this table from Baseball-Reference.com shows. There are particularly sizable differences between current rates and those from the beginning of the 20th century.

To prevent this steady trend from influencing the top 10, we'll compare pitchers to others from their respective eras.

That means choosing statistical qualifications that establish somebody as a "strikeout pitcher." For past and present starters, the minimum requirements will be 1,000 innings pitched with a career SO/9 that was/is at least 20 percent better than the MLB average. Any relievers above 400 innings will be eligible for inclusion. However, because they exert more effort with each pitch (shorter outings, no reason to pace), they should be held to the higher standard of 25 percent separation from their peers.

Let's discuss more prominent snubs, then unveil the 10 esteemed and overpowering individuals.

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