Nolan Ryan may be the all-time strikeout leader (and surely the greatest strikeout pitcher ever, along with his seven no-hitters), but lifetime Washington Senator, Walter Johnson, has more strikeout titles than anyone – one more than the Ryan Express, himself.
Today’s list, moreso than the all-time leaders list, is an indication of strikeout dominance by era and league.
Johnson, for example, was the most dominant in the American League in the 19-teens and early 1920’s.
Ryan owned all of the American League in 1970s and had a resurgence to capture four straight strikeout titles about a decade after that, in the late 1980’s, dominating each league two times apiece.
Lefty Gomez is the third and final pitcher to garner double-digits in strikeout crowns. He controlled the AL in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s…and so on.
The most recent dominator of his era?
Randy Johnson, one of five lefties ranked below and who has the most strikeouts ever from that side, comes up fourth, with nine titles. The early 1990’s and 2000’s was his time.
Here is every pitcher with a minimum five seasons atop their league in strikeouts (National or American).
|1.||Walter Johnson||12||Washington Senators||1910, 1912-1919, 1921, 1923, 1924|
|2.||Nolan Ryan||11||California Angels||1972-1974, 1976-1979|
|Houston Astros||1987, 1988|
|Texas Rangers||1989, 1990|
|3.||Lefty Gomez (L)
|New York Yankees||1933, 1934, 1937|
|4.||Randy Johnson (L)
|Arizona Diamondbacks||2000-2002, 2004|
|5.||Bob Feller||7||Cleveland Indians||1938-1941, 1946-1948|
|5.||Dazzy Vance||7||Brooklyn Robins||1922-1928|
|7.||Pete Alexander||6||Philadelphia Phillies||1912, 1914-1917, 1920|
|7.||Rube Waddell (L)
|9.||Christy Mathewson||5||New York Giants||1903-1905, 1907, 1908|
|9.||Roger Clemens||5||Boston Red Sox||1988, 1991, 1996|
|Toronto Blue Jays||1997, 1998|
|9.||Sam McDowell (L)
||5||Cleveland Indians||1965, 1966, 1968-1970|
|9.||Steve Carlton (L)
||5||Philadelphia Phillies||1972, 1974, 1980, 1982, 1983|
|9.||Tom Seaver||5||New York Mets||1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976|
Since 1901, the year the National and American Leagues unified, 13 pitchers have won 30 games in a season (a total of 21 times).
These are some of the best pitchers to toss the rawhide, including the great Cy Young himself (twice), Walter Johnson (twice), Pete “Grover Cleveland” Alexander (three times) and New York Giants‘ greats Christy Mathewson (four times) and Joe McGinnity (twice).
In fact, only four pitchers on today’s list are not in the Hall of Fame: Smoky Joe Wood, Jim Bagby, Jack Coombs and the last pitcher to win 30, Denny McLain. McLain went 31-6 for the World Champion Detroit Tigers in 1968.
More than half of baseball’s 30-game winners did their deeds in the first decade of the 20th century (11 from 1901-1910). Almost all (18 of 21) did them between 1900-1920. Once the Deadball Era ended, though, things took a turn in the batters’ favors.
|1.||Jack Chesbro||41||1904||R||New York Highlanders|
|2.||Ed Walsh||40||1908||R||Chicago White Sox|
|3.||Christy Mathewson||37||1908||R||New York Giants|
|4.||Walter Johnson||36||1913||R||Washington Senators|
|5.||Joe McGinnity||35||1904||R||New York Giants|
|6.||Smoky Joe Wood||34||1912||R||Boston Red Sox|
|7.||Pete Alexander||33||1916||R||Philadelphia Phillies|
|7.||Walter Johnson||33||1912||R||Washington Senators|
|7.||Christy Mathewson||33||1904||R||New York Giants|
|7.||Cy Young||33||1901||R||Boston Americans|
|11.||Cy Young||32||1902||R||Boston Americans|
|12.||Pete Alexander||31||1915||R||Philadelphia Phillies|
|12.||Jim Bagby||31||1920||R||Cleveland Indians|
|12.||Jack Coombs||31||1910||R||Philadelphia A’s|
|12.||Lefty Grove||31||1931||L||Philadelphia A’s|
|12.||Christy Mathewson||31||1905||R||New York Giants|
|12.||Joe McGinnity||31||1903||R||New York Giants|
|12.||Denny McLain||31||1968||R||Detroit Tigers|
|19.||Pete Alexander||30||1917||R||Philadelphia Phillies|
|19.||Dizzy Dean||30||1934||R||St. Louis Cardinals|
|19.||Christy Mathewson||30||1903||R||New York Giants|
Since before 1901, from the very beginnings of the game of organized baseball, literally over 100 pitchers have won 30 games or more in a season. You can see them all at my source, baseball-reference.com. It’s Old Hoss Radbourn with the pre-unified record of 59 wins for the National League’s Providence Grays in 1884.
Warren Spahn has the most wins – a whopping 363, but he never won more than 23 (he did win 20 or more an incredible 13 times, though). So Spahn misses hitting today’s first list, which ranks lefties with the most wins in a single season.
Today’s second list – left-handed pitchers with the most K’s in a season – is more in sync with the career list. They’re both dominated by Randy Johnson. Johnson holds the career strikeout record for lefties with 4,875 – and he appears five times on the single-season list.
Finally, a more modern mounting statistic – saves, led on the left-handed side of things by another Randy, Randy Myers. He’s the only lefty to break the 50-save barrier. The ten relievers (stoppers or closers, really) listed in today’s third featured list are all the left-handers who made it to 40.
|1.||Lefty Grove||31||1931||Philadelphia Athletics|
|2.||Hal Newhouser||29||1944||Detroit Tigers|
|3.||Lefty Grove||28||1930||Philadelphia Athletics|
|4.||Steve Carlton||27||1972||Philadelphia Phillies|
|4.||Sandy Koufax||27||1966||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|4.||Rube Waddell||27||1905||Philadelphia Athletics|
|4.||Doc White||27||1907||Chicago White Sox|
|8.||Lefty Gomez||26||1934||New York Yankees|
|8.||Carl Hubbell||26||1936||New York Giants|
|8.||Sandy Koufax||26||1965||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|8.||Rube Marquard||26||1912||New York Giants|
|8.||Hal Newhouser||26||1946||Detroit Tigers|
|8.||Eddie Plank||26||1904||Philadelphia Athletics|
|8.||Eddie Plank||26||1912||Philadelphia Athletics|
|1.||Sandy Koufax||382||1965||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|2.||Randy Johnson||372||2001||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|3.||Randy Johnson||364||1999||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|4.||Rube Waddell||349||1904||Philadelphia Athletics|
|5.||Randy Johnson||347||2000||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|6.||Randy Johnson||334||2002||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|7.||Randy Johnson||329||1998||Houston Astros|
|8.||Sam McDowell||325||1965||Cleveland Indians|
|9.||Sandy Koufax||317||1966||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|10.||Steve Carlton||310||1972||Philadelphia Phillies|
|1.||Randy Myers||53||1993||Chicago Cubs|
|2.||Brian Fuentes||48||2009||Los Angeles Angels|
|3.||Dave Righetti||46||1986||New York Yankees|
|4.||Eddie Guardado||45||2002||Minnesota Twins|
|4.||Randy Myers||45||1997||Baltimore Orioles|
|6.||Mark Davis||44||1989||San Diego Padres|
|6.||Billy Wagner||44||2003||Houston Astros|
|8.||Mitch Williams||43||1993||Philadelphia Phillies|
|9.||Eddie Guardado||41||2003||Minnesota Twins|
|10.||Billy Wagner||40||2006||New York Mets|
* Statistics are from the NL-AL unified era, 1901-present.