As you may have heard, we are currently enjoying the highest strikeout rates that mankind has ever known. Well, enjoying is probably the wrong word. Quietly tolerating, is more like it. It's a real problem that Major League Baseball should have addressed years ago, but who has time when Ryan Braun still walks the earth a free man?
Anywho's, Jeff Samardzija struck out thirteen Braves on Sunday, in less than six innings of work. He was on pace to equal or better the record for strikeouts in a game, held by Kerry Wood, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens. Now, Jeff Samardzija is a pretty good pitcher, maybe even an "ace." If you subscribe to the theory that every team has an ace, than he qualifies, at least until Matt Garza gets off the D.L. But I don't think I'm telling any tales out of school when I say Jeff Samardzija is no Kerry Wood, never mind Roger Clemens.
In 1998, the year Wood struck out twenty Astros, the strikeout rate was 6.6 per team, per game. Last year it was 7.5. We're at 7.9 K's per game this year, though the season is young, and April is the cruelest month for batters. When the home run rate soared in the '90s and 'aughts, the home run records were demolished. When stolen base rates peaked in the '70s and '80s, that's when the single-season and career stolen base records were broken. When Jeff Samardzija is striking out more than two batters an inning, the single-game strikeout record is going down.
And maybe soon. The Astros play the Mariners three times this week, but won't face Felix Hernandez. Lucky for them, and for Kerry Wood.