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Indians pitchers are recording strikeouts at a record pace

Sometimes it's wise just to take care of things yourself.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Indians pitchers have already recorded 585 strikeouts in 594.1 innings*. Leading the charge have been Corey Kluber, who's 6th in MLB with 104 strikeouts already, which puts him on pace to become only the fifth pitcher in franchise history to record 250+ of them (Bob Feller, Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, and Herb Score are the others), and the first since 1970. Heck, in the last 40 years, no Tribe pitcher has struck out as many as 220.

*It's a good thing too, because the Indians are on pace to make more errors than any team in the 2000s, so the fewer balls in play, the better.

Justin Masterson is next, with 74 strikeouts so far, and after that it's been a real group effort, with Cody Allen, Danny Salazar, John Axford, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Outman each averaging at least a strikeout an inning.

As a team, the Indians have a K/9 rate of 8.84. That doesn't just lead the league, it would be an all-time record.

Here are the top ten team strikeout rates in MLB history:

Rank Team Year K/9
1 Tigers 2013 8.79
2 Brewers 2012 8.68
3 Cubs 2003 8.68
4 Indians 2013 8.61
5 Phillies 2012 8.59
6 Rays 2012 8.53
7 Cubs 2001 8.42
8 Cubs 2002 8.32
9 Tigers 2012 8.29
10 Cubs 2004 8.27

As you can see, all of those seasons have come since 2001. In fact, you have to go all the way down to #56 on the list to find a team from before then (1998 Braves, 7.71 K/9). Strikeouts have been trending upwards league wide for years and years, so the list being populated by recent teams should be no surprise.

Here is history of the team strikeout-rate record dating to be beginning of the modern era in 1901:

  • 4.32 - 1901 Brooklyn Superbas (who became the Dodgers)
  • 5.43 - 1903 Philadelphia Athletics
  • 5.86 - 1904 Philadelphia Athletics
  • 6.87 - 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 7.22 - 1960 Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 7.24 - 1967 Cleveland Indians
  • 7.65 - 1969 Houston Astros
  • 7.66 - 1997 Philadelphia Phillies
  • 7.71 - 1998 Atlanta Braves
  • 8.42 - 2001 Chicago Cubs
  • 8.677 - 2003 Chicago Cubs
  • 8.680 - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers
  • 8.79 - 2013 Detroit Tigers

I find it very interesting that the A's set (and reset) the record so early, and then 55 years passed before anyone topped them... but when someone finally did top them, the record was shattered by more than a full strikeout per 9 innings.

That kicked off an 10-year stretch in which the record changed numerous times, before another long lull, with 28 years passing before the record was broken in 1997. Since then it's again been broken numerous times, and the Indians aren't the only team with a chance to claim it this season, as the Yankees (led by Masahiro Tanaka) are currently at 8.62 K/9.

Can the Tribe maintain their record pace? League wide last season, strikeouts were very high in April and May, then dropped for June, July, and August, before bouncing back to a season-high rate in September. I suspect that trend is fairly normal, brought on by a combination of cooler weather leading to more strikeouts, and September featuring expanded rosters with lesser players. If the Indians were to follow that trend this season, they'd end up a bit below the record, though perhaps still above the franchise mark set last season, and in the top five ever.

Something to keep an eye on...