10 Epic MLB Playoff Records That Will Never Be Broken

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2021

10 Epic MLB Playoff Records That Will Never Be Broken

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Records were meant to be broken, but there are some MLB postseason records that have a great chance of standing the test of time.

    From the way pitchers are utilized to the level of leaguewide parity in today's game that makes frequent trips to the postseason and World Series more difficult for teams, the game's evolution over the years has made a handful of records look essentially untouchable.

    Never say never, but the 10 postseason records that follow are as close to unbreakable as it gets in a sport where it's always wise to expect the unexpected.

    Enjoy!

Most Strikeouts in a Single Postseason

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    TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

    Player: Curt Schilling, 2001

    Record: 56

    Four years after their inception as a franchise, the Arizona Diamondbacks rode the duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to an unlikely World Series title over the heavily favored New York Yankees at the peak of their dynasty.

    The "Big Unit" won NL Cy Young honors during the regular season and had a terrific playoff run of his own, but it was Schilling who rewrote the strikeout record books.

    The 34-year-old made six starts and tossed three complete games, piling up the punchouts along the way.

    • Game 1 NLDS: 9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 9 K
    • Game 5 NLDS: 9.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 9 K
    • Game 3 NLCS: 9.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 12 K
    • Game 1 WS: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 8 K
    • Game 4 WS: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 9 K
    • Game 7 WS: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 9 K

    Those 56 strikeouts give him a comfortable lead for the highest total in a single postseason, ahead of Gerrit Cole (2019), Stephen Strasburg (2019), Cliff Lee (2010), Josh Beckett (2003) and Randy Johnson (2001), who each tallied 47 punchouts in one postseason.

    Strikeouts continue to rise around the league, but starting pitchers are also on a shorter leash. As such, the likelihood of a guy getting a chance to pitch enough innings to accumulate that many strikeouts are increasingly remote.

Most Strikeouts in a Single World Series

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Player: Bob Gibson, 1968

    Record: 35

    Only twice in MLB history has a pitcher racked up more than 30 strikeouts in a single World Series, and both times it was St. Louis Cardinals legend Bob Gibson.

    After winning World Series MVP in 1964 and 1967, Gibson was back in the Fall Classic in 1968 against the Detroit Tigers, and he started things off with a bang.

    In Game 1 of the series, he struck out 17 batters—another record that will likely stand the test of time—and gave the Cardinals an early series lead with a five-hit shutout.

    He threw another nine-inning gem in Game 4, allowing five hits and one earned run while striking out 10 to give the Cardinals a commanding 3-1 series lead.

    However, the Tigers clawed their way back to force a Game 7, with Gibson taking the ball against Mickey Lolich. The two aces traded zeroes for six innings before the Tigers finally broke through for three runs against Gibson in the seventh.

    The Hall of Famer finished what would be his final World Series appearance, allowing four earned runs while striking out eight to surpass his previous record of 31 punchouts set during the 1964 World Series, but the Tigers walked away with the title.

Most Career Postseason Steals

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Player: Kenny Lofton

    Record: 34

    The stolen base is a lost art.

    Entering play on Sunday, there had been just 23 stolen bases through the first 22 games of the 2021 MLB playoffs, and no single player had more than three steals.

    Kenny Lofton finished his career 15th on the all-time list with 622 career steals, leading the league in that category five times while establishing himself as one of the most impact leadoff batters of his era, hitting atop a loaded Cleveland lineup.

    In 17 big league seasons, he reached the postseason 11 different times and played in 95 playoff games while suiting up for six different teams in October.

    His final playoff run came in 2007 in his third go-around in Cleveland, and his stolen base in Game 4 of the ALCS that year broke a tie with Hall of Famer and all-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson for the most career postseason steals at 34.

    The foundation of that gaudy total was an 11-steal postseason in 1995, and unless team philosophies shift course on the value of the stolen base, it's hard to envision anyone approaching that career total again.

Most Career Postseason Innings Pitched

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    TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

    Player: Andy Pettitte

    Record: 276.2 innings

    A staple for the New York Yankees during their late 1990s and early 2000s dynasty, Andy Pettitte started 44 postseason games over the course of his 18-year career.

    That itself is an all-time record, ahead of Tom Glavine (35) and Roger Clemens (34), but it's his eye-popping innings pitched total that really stands out as a potentially untouchable entry in the playoff record books.

    With 276.2 career postseason innings, Pettitte stands alone atop the leaderboard by a wide enough margin to believe no one will ever come close to that total again:

    • Andy Pettitte: 276.2 innings
    • Tom Glavine: 218.1 innings
    • John Smoltz: 209.0 innings
    • Roger Clemens: 199.0 innings
    • Greg Maddux: 198.0 innings

    Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw has been a regular participant in October during his team's run of nine straight playoff appearances, but he is still light years behind Pettitte with only 189 career postseason innings. Still, that's enough to make him the active leader and sixth overall, so don't expect anyone to challenge for this record any time soon.

Most Career Postseason Saves

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    DON EMMERT/Getty Images

    Player: Mariano Rivera

    Record: 42

    Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer in baseball history, and he built his legacy in October.

    The all-time leader in postseason appearances (96) and career postseason ERA (0.70), Rivera slammed the door on many a New York Yankees win during his Hall of Famer career.

    That includes a record 42 saves in his postseason career, a total that is comically far ahead of the rest of the field:

    • Mariano Rivera: 42
    • Kenley Jansen: 18
    • Brad Lidge: 18
    • Dennis Eckersley: 15
    • Jason Isringhausen: 11
    • Robb Nen: 11
    • Aroldis Chapman: 10

    Given how volatile relief pitchers can be, it's safe to say no one is ever going to touch this record.

Most Career World Series Pitching Wins

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    Preston Stroup/Associated Press

    Player: Whitey Ford

    Record: 10

    Whitey Ford was the ace of the New York Yankees staff during the 1950s and early 1960s, and during his time with the team, he appeared in 11 World Series and won six rings.

    The left-hander won multiple games during the 1955, 1960 and 1961 World Series on his way to a record 10 career wins in the Fall Classic.

    Pitcher wins don't carry much weight in today's game, and understandably so, as they are largely a team-focused stat that can be out of a pitcher's control.

    Still, Ford's record 10 wins in the World Series is a mark that deserves to be honored, especially considering he pitched during a time when that stat trumped all others when judging a pitcher's performance. Red Ruffing, Bob Gibson and Allie Reynolds rank second on the career list with seven wins.

    Ford also holds the record for most innings pitched (146) and most strikeouts (94) in his World Series career, and those two marks have a good chance of standing up for the foreseeable future as well.

Most Career Postseason Hits

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    Mark Boster/Getty Images

    Player: Derek Jeter

    Record: 200

    This entire article could have simply been an ode to Derek Jeter's postseason career.

    The Hall of Fame shortstop is the all-time postseason leader in games played (158), plate appearances (734), singles (143), doubles (32), runs scored (111) and total bases (302).

    However, it's his 200 hits that we've chosen to focus on for his spot on this list.

    Those 158 games played means he has essentially a full regular season's worth of games on his playoff resume, and he managed to pile up 200 hits along the way.

    Longtime teammate Bernie Williams (128), Manny Ramirez (117), Jorge Posada (103) and Yadier Molina (101) are the only other players in baseball history to ever reach 100 career postseason hits.

    With a .308/.374/.465 career line in the playoffs and a .310/.377/.440 career line during the regular season, Jeter was simply a model of consistency, and the moment was never too big for him.

Most Shutouts in a Single World Series

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Player: Christy Mathewson, 1905

    Record: 3

    It's not out of the question to think we could see a pitcher rattle off three shutouts in one postseason again.

    Madison Bumgarner (2014), Josh Beckett (2003) and Randy Johnson (2001) each had two during one postseason in recent history, and there are plenty of electric young arms capable of similar dominance during a deep playoff run.

    However, it's hard to envision anyone ever putting together something similar to the performance Christy Mathewson unleashed during the 1905 World Series.

    Simply put, he was untouchable.

    • Game 1: 9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
    • Game 3: 9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
    • Game 5: 9.0 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

    There have only been 48 complete-game shutouts in the history of the World Series, and Mathewson threw three of them in a row.

    A performance for the ages.

Most Career World Series Home Runs

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    Associated Press

    Player: Mickey Mantle

    Record: 18

    Mickey Mantle played in the World Series an absurd 12 times over the first 14 years of his career, winning seven rings in the process.

    He homered at least once in nine of those Fall Classic appearances and had multi-homer performances in six of them on his way to 18 career World Series home runs.

    His three-homer performance in his final World Series in 1964 broke a tie with the legendary Babe Ruth, and no active player is even close to the top of that leaderboard.

    • Mickey Mantle: 18 HR
    • Babe Ruth: 15 HR
    • Yogi Berra: 12 HR
    • Duke Snider: 11 HR
    • Lou Gehrig: 10 HR
    • Reggie Jackson: 10 HR

    The active leader is George Springer with seven home runs, five of which came during the 2017 World Series, so he at least has a chance to join that exclusive group with double-digits if a young Toronto Blue Jays roster can continue its rise up the standings.

Most Career World Series Rings

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    Associated Press

    Player: Yogi Berra

    Record: 10

    No player in baseball history has more World Series appearances (14) or World Series wins (10) than New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.

    Berra bridged the gap from Joe DiMaggio in the late 1940s to Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford in the 1950s, earning 18 All-Star selections and winning three AL MVP awards during his time in pinstripes.

    He hit .274/.359/.452 with 10 doubles, 12 home runs and 39 RBI in 295 plate appearances while playing in a record 75 World Series games.

    Given the parity in today's game relative to the era that Berra played in, it's hard to envision a single player ever again appearing in 10 World Series, let alone winning that many rings throughout his playing career.

    Only Boston Celtics center Bill Russell (11 rings) and Montreal Canadiens forward Henri Richard (11 rings) have more rings among the four major North American sports.

         

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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