The following is a list of the pitchers with the most strikeouts in a season in major league baseball history since 1900. Prior to 1900, a total of 12 players had enough strikeouts in a season to make this list, and seven of those pitchers had more strikeouts in a season than the top player listed here.
Prior to 1900, though, the rules in baseball were a lot different than today. In 1886, a pitcher named Matt Kilroy struck out 513 batters, which is the most in a season in baseball history, while throwing from 50 feet to home plate and pitching to batters who needed six balls to get a walk.
Most Strikeouts in a Major League Baseball Season by Pitcher
1. Nolan Ryan (1973) – 383
Nolan Ryan set the modern record for most strikeouts in a season by a pitcher when he struck out 383 batters during the 1973 season with the California (now Los Angeles) Angels. Nolan Ryan led the league 11 times in strikeouts, and his career total of 5,714 strikeouts is the most in major league baseball history.
Nolan Ryan also holds the major league baseball record for most seasons played.
2. Sandy Koufax (1965) – 382
When Sandy Koufax struck out 382 batters during the 1965 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he set the modern record for most strikeouts in a season. Koufax’s record lasted for eight years, until Nolan Ryan broke it 1973.
Sandy Koufax led the league four times in strikeouts. From 1963 to 1966, Sandy Koufax had a record of 97-27, with a ERA below 2.00, while leading the league in strikeouts over three of the four seasons. Over those four seasons, Sandy Koufax was arguably the best pitcher in baseball history, but he retired after the 1966 season.
3. Randy Johnson (2001) – 372
Nicknamed the Big Unit because of his height, Randy Johnson struck out 372 batters in 2001 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Randy Johnson was one of the tallest players in major league baseball history.
4. Nolan Ryan (1974) – 367
One year after setting the major league baseball record for most strikeouts in a season, Randy Johnson came back and struck out 367 batters in 1974. Nolan Ryan struck out 300 or more batters six times in his career.
5.Randy Johnson (1999) – 364
Randy Johnson struck out 364 batters during the 1999 season, his first season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Randy Johnson led the league nine times in strikeouts, and he struck out 300 or more batters six times in his career.
6. Rube Waddell (1904) – 349
Rube Waddell was a great strikeout pitcher during a time when batters did not strikeout at rates like they do today. When he struck out 349 batters in 1904, Rube Waddell set the modern day record for most strikeouts in a season. His record would last for 61 years, until Sandy Koufax broke it in 1965.
Rube Waddell led the league in strikeouts for six consecutive seasons from 1902 to 1907. Waddell was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.
7. Bob Feller (1948) – 348
Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians struck out 348 batters during the 1948. Bob Feller led the league six times in strikeouts, and would have done so even more but he missed almost four full seasons due to WW II.
Due to his incredible talent, which included striking out batters at high rates, Bob Feller never played a game in the minor leagues. Feller started playing in the major leagues when he was just 17 years old.