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Corey Kluber is one of the fastest pitchers to 500 strikeouts in AL history

As with many historical strikeout accomplishments, there are multiple Indians involved in this one.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

In his last start, Cleveland Indians ace and reigning American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber recorded 18 strikeouts in just eight innings of work. That's tied (with Randy Johnson) for the most any pitcher has ever compiled in a start that lasted fewer than nine innings. It was an incredible performance, and many fans will long wonder if Kluber could have matched the nine-inning record (which is the one people care about) of 20 strikeouts, or perhaps even broken that mark.

While 18 represents a career high for Kluber, it's not as though striking a whole lot of batters out is something new for Kluber. This was the 15th game of Kluber's career in which he reached double figures. Kluber had a relatively late start to his MLB career, and so if you compare his accomplishments to date with other pitchers' based on age, he doesn't really stand out, but if you compare based on career games, Kluber is suddenly in very rarified air.

Last week's masterpiece was Kluber's 83rd career game. How many other pitchers have compiled 10+ strikeouts in a game as many or more times than Kluber in the first 83 appearances of their career? Not many. (I understand that under normal circumstances 83 would be a completely arbitrary number. I can update the results when Kluber reaches 100 career games, for those of you caught up with round numbers.)

Most 10+ K performances in first 83 MLB games:

  • 1) Dwight Gooden: 29
  • 2) Yu Darvish: 26
  • 3) Herb Score: 23
  • 4) Kerry Wood: 21
  • t5) Bob Feller: 18
  • t5) Mark Prior: 18
  • t7) Hideo Nomo: 17
  • t7) Tim Lincecum: 17
  • t9) Roger Clemens: 15
  • t9) Oliver Perez: 15
  • t9) Corey Kluber: 15

Kluber also didn't issue any walks or allow any runs. If you sort for players who meet those qualifications, the only ones ever to record 18+ strikeouts during the first 83 games of their career are Kluber and Wood (who famously tied the MLB strikeouts record with 20 when he was a rookie in 1998).

Strikeouts have been on the rise for some time, but pitchers are often less frequently allowed to go as deep into games (as evidenced by Kluber being pulled after 8 innings), and so big single-season strikeout totals are not really much more common than they've been for most of the last 50 years. Such totals have been more common in the National League than in the American League, in part because of the DH, replacing the most easily struck out player in the lineup with (usually) an above average hitter.

Point being, it's been a bit harder to put up big strikeout totals in the AL, where Kluber has been.

Kluber is at 528 strikeouts so far in his career. In American League history, only seven pitchers have reached 500+ in their first 83 games. Two of them did it before the Dh was introduced in 1973: Bob Feller (504 strikeouts) and Herb Score (594). Few teams have had as many great strikeout pitchers over the years as the Indians.

In the DH era, here are the highest strikeout totals through 83 games by AL pitchers:

  • 1) Yu Darvish: 680
  • 2) Roger Clemens: 536
  • 3) Corey Kluber: 528
  • 4) Frank Tanana: 511
  • 5) Bobby Witt: 501

Notably, Darvish is also at exactly 83 career games right now. He's out for the season, so he won't be adding to his career appearances or strikeouts anytime soon. Kluber will hopefully reach Darvish's strikeout total by the ed of August, but of course he'd be well beyond 83 games at that point.

In any event, Kluber has been an elite strikeout machine thus far in his career. Here's to hoping that he eventually reaches 283 games for the Indians, and that when he does, his numbers still stand among the best.