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09/16/2004 Archived Entry: "MLB news: Big Unit gets big milestone"
Bonds, Rivera also reach milestones
By Michael Toeset
RANDY JOHNSON moved up one place on the career strikeout list Wednesday by fanning 11 Rockies. Johnson’s double-digit strikeout performance gave him 268 K’s for the year and 4,139 for his career, catapulting him past STEVE CARLTON on the all-time list to No. 3, behind NOLAN RYAN and ROGER CLEMENS (who is currently at 4,287). In moving past southpaw Carlton, Johnson also became the greatest left-handed strikeout artist in history.
Johnson has maintained an incredible strikeout rate over his career, fanning 11.1 batters every nine innings. And even at age 41 (he celebrated his birthday last week), Johnson isn’t slowing down: his rate this year is 10.8 K’s every nine innings, and he’s having what may be the best season of his career. Although his record is only 14-13, that’s actually fairly impressive since the Big Unit plays for the worst team in baseball. And his 268 strikeouts in 223 2/3 innings comes with only 41 walks – Johnson’s best full-season rate – an ERA of 2.74 and a jaw-dropping 0.87 WHIP. Only 14 pitchers who threw at least 200 innings have had a lower WHIP.
At the beginning of his career, Johnson was shackled by a lack of control, routinely walking more than 100 batters a season, but he learned how to harness his fastball in 1994, and he has been the best left-hander in the game since then. Johnson’s strikeout totals have never suffered, though. His season totals:
25, 130, 194, 228, 241, 308, 204, 294, 85, 291, 329, 364, 347, 372, 334, 126 and 268 this year.
If Johnson had emerged as an ace at an earlier age – he made his debut at age 25 and didn’t pitch more than 100 innings until he was 27 – he would have a shot at Ryan’s astronomical strikeout total of 5,714. As it is, Johnson may pitch a few more seasons and pass Clemens on the list, but he would need six more quality seasons to catch Ryan.
Even though Johnson may only end up No. 3 on the all-time strikeout list when he decides to hang it up, he still will rank as one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, and one of the greatest southpaws of all time.
BARRY BONDS broke his own season walks record on Sept. 12, earning free pass No. 199. As mentioned in a previous article, Bonds holds the top three spots on the single-season record list, and his walks totals dwarf everyone in history save BABE RUTH and TED WILLIAMS. As of Wednesday, Bonds was up to an astronomical 206 walks, which he’s getting in droves these days as pitchers try not to put their names on the wrong end of a milestone (700 home runs). Even if Bonds’ season ended today, his walks record just might last for several hundred years.
MARIANO RIVERA moved up the all-time saves list on Sept. 12 with his 331st save, bumping him past former bullpen mate JOHN WETTELAND. Rivera is now eighth on the list, and he has a shot at moving to No. 7, but he may have to wait until 2005 to climb higher – No. 7 is ROLLIE FINGERS, with 341 saves. If Rivera has an average season next year – say, 30 saves – he’ll move up to No. 4 on the list. And if his success holds out, Rivera well could break LEE SMITH’s record 478 saves.
VINNY CASTILLA hit home run No. 300 on Sept. 13. Castilla has 32 homers this season, his best total since 1999, when he was one of the best third basemen in baseball. Castilla’s best homer seasons were 46, 40 and 40.
Hits needed to break record: 25
Games left: 17
Odds he’ll break record: Getting worse
Games left: 16
No. of HR and SB in past week: 0
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