Home Sports Justin Verlander passes Greg Maddux to enter top 10 of MLB all-time strikeout list

Justin Verlander passes Greg Maddux to enter top 10 of MLB all-time strikeout list

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HOUSTON, TEXAS – MAY 1: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Minute Maid Park on May 1, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
There won’t be many pitchers like Justin Verlander in the future. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Justin Verlander’s Hall of Fame resume just shined a little brighter.

The Houston Astros ace passed the great Greg Maddux on MLB’s all-time strikeout list, entering the top 10 with his 3,372nd career strikeout. Next on the list: Walter Johnson with 3,509.

Verlander got there with a fly ball against Oakland Athletics infielder Abraham Toro, his fourth strikeout in two innings.

The achievement sounds natural for a player as durable and talented as Verlander, but it’s worth remembering that the 41-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery four years ago, with no guarantee that he would be as good as he was at his age.

Since then, he has struck out 355 in 371 1/3 innings with a 2.59 ERA for the Astros and New York Mets, winning his third Cy Young Award in 2022.

Going forward, Verlander may well be remembered as one of the last of a certain class of pitchers.

Only two active pitchers come close to Verlander on the all-time strikeout list: Max Scherzer, 12th on the list and just behind him with 3,367, and Clayton Kershaw, who is 21st with 2,944. The following pitchers who are currently on a 40-man roster: Chris Sale, who is 60th at 2,259, and Gerrit Cole, 72nd at 2,152.

The next best pitcher under Cole’s age of 33: 31-year-old Aaron Nola, who ranks 174th with 1,642. The career strikeout leader among pitchers under the age of 30 is… Lucas Giolito. In 1,077.

As things currently stand, it’s hard to see any member of the next wave of pitchers putting up enough innings to come close to Verlander in the top 10. Scherzer and Kershaw are both recovering from major injuries, but could see a few more seasons upon returning. Cole was able to string together more than 200 strikeouts in some seasons and enter sacred territory. Any other established pitcher would need to achieve a run of health that is simply not seen in today’s game.

That’s ironic given the current high-strikeout situation, but it’s also part of the problem. To make it to the majors, you have to pitch hard, and to pitch hard, you have to pitch hard, and to pitch hard, you probably have to accept a few injuries here and there. In addition to flamethrowers that regularly break down, we are also dealing with the death of starters that also start young.

Verlander was selected in the college draft in 2004 and made his debut a year later, at age 22. Kershaw was drafted out of high school and debuted two years later, at age 20. Scherzer debuted at age 23, Cole at 22. There are certainly pitchers who reach the majors at that age today, but they are entering a completely different world (see: Paul Skenes, who has averaged 5.33 innings in his first three starts).

What really stands out about Verlander is his 12 seasons with at least 200 innings. That’s one less than every player in the majors has thrown in the last two seasons.

1. Nolan Ryan, 5714
2. Randy Johnson, 4875
3. Roger Clemens, 4672
4. Steve Carlton, 4136
5. Bert Blyleven, 3701
6. Tom Seaver, 3640
7.Don Sutton, 3574
8. Gaylord Perry, 3534
9. Walter Johnson, 3509
10. Justin Verlander, 3,372

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