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33 years ago, Nolan Ryan broke this Tom Seaver record

On this day, 1987, the Ryan Express accomplished his 11th 200-strikeout season. He finished his career with 15, a record that remains unreachable.

If striking out 200 guys in a season is not an easy thing, imagine striking out at least 200 hitters for more than 10 times in your career. On August 29, 1987, Nolan Ryan accomplished his 11th 200-punchout campaign to break the tie with Tom Seaver and his 10 seasons fanning 200.

On the historic date, he took the loss against the Pirates at Pittsburgh despite a quality start: 6 innings of four-hit, two-run ball. His 200th victim that year was RJ Reynolds at the bottom of the first episode.

The most incredible part of that feat is that he was 40 years old! It was his second-to-last year wearing the Astros uniform and the second of two times he led the league in the ERA department, both years were with Houston (1981, 1987). Even though Ryan had a negative 8-16 record, he recorded the third-lowest ERA of his career.

The Ryan Express, MLB’s all-team leader in punchouts (5714), recorded at least 200 strikeouts in each of the following four seasons: 228 in 1988 (led the league), 301 in 1989 (led the league), 232 in 1990 (led the league), and 203 in 1991 when he was 44 years of age.

That way he became the only pitcher in Major Leagues history to finish 15 campaigns with at least 200 punchouts, a feat that takes huge consistency, health, and quality on the mound. In fact, only four men appear on the list of pitchers who have recorded a 200-strikeout season 10 times: Seaver (10), Roger Clemens (12), Randy Johnson (13), and Ryan.

Among active hurlers, Justin Verlander has done it nine times and he might have a shot at it in 2021. Behind JV, there’s Max Scherzer with eight and Chris Sale/Clayton Kershaw with seven.

Other baseball’s greats such as Sandy Koufax (6), Juan Marichal (6), or Roy Halladay (5) didn’t get even half the seasons that Nolan Ryan did, and I’m pointing out three Hall of Famers. We are still cherishing you, Nolan!

Some strikeout facts of Nolan Ryan’s career...

  • He recorded his first 200-strikeout season in 1972 (329) at the age of 25. Got his last almost 20 years later (1990).
  • He led his league in punchouts 11 times!
  • He’s the only pitcher in MLB history to register 5000 Ks. He finished his career with 5714. The second on that list is Randy Johnson with 4875.
  • He owns the record for most 10-strikeout games in history with 215, three more than Johnson (212).