Following up on a post by birtelcom concerning the continually increasing trend to more strikeouts in the game, I noticed that there is likely to be a lot of action on the strikeout milestone list this year. After the break, I’ll take a look at today’s career strikeout kings and their predecessors.

First, the milestones:

2500 – Earlier this season, Jim Thome became the second member of the 2500 strikeout club, the first in 26 years to join inaugural club member Reggie Jackson, who reached that total with his final strikeout of the 1986 season. Thome, if he plays again next year, has a shot at displacing Jackson as the all-time leader, though Adam Dunn, at his current pace, may have the better chance.

2000 – Later this season, Alex Rodriguez and Adam Dunn will likely become the 5th and 6th members of the 2000 strikeout club. Prior to the last week of the 2003 season, only Jackson was at this total, which he reached 20 years previously, in 1983.

1500 – Further down the list, Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano and possibly Carlos Pena are poised to join the 1500 club later this season, which would then number 54 members. Mickey Mantle was the first to reach this total, in 1966, and fewer than 20 players had done so as recently as the start of the 1995 season.

Despite this explosion of new names on the upper reaches of the career strikeout list, only 5 players in the past 100 years have held the top spot. Jimmy Sheckard succeeded Tom Brown (one of only two players to hail from Liverpool, England) in 1912, then was passed by Babe Ruth with the Bambino’s 850th whiff in 1928. Ruth retired with 1330 Ks, a mark not passed until Mantle in 1964. Willie Stargell passed Mantle’s 1710 total in 1978, and Stargell was passed by Jackson in the 1982 season while Pops was still active. Reggie’s 30 years and counting in the top spot are approaching the Babe’s tenure of 36 years.

Following from a recent post on achievements by teammates, these are the players (unless I’ve missed some) to accumulate 2000 or more combined strikeouts as teammates. The ones in red are the pairs who had achieved this mark when Reggie Jackson became the career strikeout leader in 1982.

With the explosion in strikeouts in the past 30 hours has come an explosion in home runs. Here are the members of the strikeout and home run clubs in the past 50 years.

StrikeoutsHome Runs
1000150020002500300400500
196060001864
19702110030149
1980521200431912
1990951711632214
20001532911873216
201023950411294725

 

So, there are now more players in the 500 HR club than were in the 300 HR club in 1960. Similarly, by the end of this season, there will likely be as many players in the 2000 strikeout club as were in the 1000 strikeout club in 1960.

But, are the extra home runs worth all the extra strikeouts? I don’t know, but maybe the serious sabermetricians out there can tackle that one. FWIW, here are the extremes – the players with the best and worst career ratios between home runs and strikeouts.

K LevelBest HR RatioWorst HR Ratio
1-500Joe DiMaggio 0.98Jerry Reuss 0.002
500-999Ted Williams 0.73George McBride 0.01
1000-1499Hank Aaron 0.55Willie Wilson 0.04
1500-1999Barry Bonds 0.50Lou Brock 0.09
2000+Sammy Sosa 0.26Andres Galarraga 0.20
HR LevelBest K RatioWorst K Ratio
1-99Tommy Holmes 1.39Jerry Reuss 433.00
100-199Lefty O'Doul 1.08Royce Clayton 12.86
200-299Ted Kluszewski 1.31Devon White 7.34
300-399Joe DiMaggio 1.02Bobby Bonds 5.29
400-499Stan Musial 1.47Jose Canseco 4.20
500-599Ted Williams 1.36Reggie Jackson 4.61
600+Hank Aaron 1.83Jim Thome 4.12

 

Some other little tidbits.

  • The most career home runs by a player to never strike out is … one, by 4 players (excl. 2 in the Federal League). This was accomplished most recently by pitchers Mark Worrell and Esteban Yao, both in very limited PAs. The other two were Mike Ulicny (19 PA in 1945) and Abie Hood (23 PA in 1925), both with the Braves.
  • The most career strikeouts by a player never to hit a home run is …  420, by Dean Chance. The most for a non-pitcher is 231 by Tim Thompson, an infielder with the Brewers and Blue Jays in the 1970s.
  • For the past two seasons, the Yankees have had three 1500 strikeout players (Jeter, A-Rod and Andruw) on their roster, the only team with this distinction.
  • The only pair of teammates with 4000 combined career strikeouts were Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez of the Dodgers, with a mark of 4061 at the end of the 2009 season.
  • The first game with two players with a combined 3000 career strikeouts was Yankees vs Tigers on Sep 25, 1967, with Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews. This was also the first AL game featuring two players each with 500 career home runs.
  • The first game with two players with a combined 4000 career strikeouts was Athletics vs Angels on Apr 11, 1986, with Reggie Jackson and Dave Kingman.
  • The first game with two players each with 2000 career strikeouts was Rangers vs White Sox on Aug 28, 2007, with Sammy Sosa and Jim Thome. At the end of the Aug 30 game of the same series, their combined total was 4316. This series was the only time two 2000 strikeout players have faced each other. Other pairs of such players (A-Rod/Dunn, A-Rod/Thome and Dunn/Thome) may connect later this season.
  • With a combined total of 4361, Jim Thome and A-Rod have the most strikeouts of any two players to appear together in the same game, when the Twins faced the Yankees on Aug 21, 2011. This was also the first (and, so far, the only) AL game with two players each with 600 career home runs. Now that Thome is back in the AL, both these marks may be extended.

 

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