Baumann: Chasing 19 (or 20 or 21) strikeouts in a game

From SABR member Michael J. Baumann at Baseball Prospectus on April 22, 2016:

Sometime in the past few years, certain circles of modern sabermetric/internet baseball community became performatively disinterested in the no-hitter, which is one of those things I understood the appeal of but never really felt edgy enough to get on board with myself, like punk rock or those cool haircuts where you only shave the sides of your head.

The perfect game is still the pinnacle of single-game pitching achievement, but second place now belongs to the ultra-high strikeout game: pitchers who chase 18, 19 or even 20 strikeouts in a single nine-inning start.

Believe it or not, the 19-strikeout game is even rarer than a perfect game, though, near as I can tell, not for the same reasons.

There have been 21 perfect games since 1900, with the first coming in 1904—even though perfect games are more frequent now than they once were (six since 2009, nine since 1998), the perfect game as an achievement is more or less as old as Major League Baseball as we know it.

That’s not true of the 19-strikeout game, which first occurred in 1962, in a 16-inning start in which Tom Cheney struck out 21 Orioles. Steve Carlton was the first to strike out 19 batters in nine innings, a feat he accomplished in 1969, and including that start, only 10 times has a pitcher struck out 19 or more batters in nine innings.

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Originally published: April 22, 2016. Last Updated: April 22, 2016.