You couldn’t get closer to the Hall of Fame as an active player than Max Scherzer. In addition, the right-hander is on track to seal another masterful season in his case for Cooperstown, becoming the 19th mound in American and National League history to hit 3,000 career strikeouts.
Scherzer joined Justin Verlander as the two active pitchers to reach that number of fans, and who knows? Perhaps the two of them will enter the Temple of the Immortals at the same time.
There’s a long time to go, and the 3,000 strikeout club could get new members.
Here’s a look at the pitchers who could follow Scherzer as the next to hit 3,000 strikeouts.
VETERANS WITH POSSIBILITIES
Total K: 2,799
K / 9 career rate: 8.1
Maybe you didn’t know he was next on the list, but he seems to be a season or two away from the 3,000 mark (he struck out 187 in 2019 and 199 in 2018). Notably, Greinke is averaging just 6.2 K / 9 this year, his lowest mark since 2005.
Forecast: Reach. Greinke has no trouble staying healthy (although he was on the COVID-19 injured list), even well into his 30s. He will be a free agent this offseason and will have no problem finding a new home (if he decides to continue pitching).
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Total K: 2,658
K / 9 career rate: 9.8
Health is the main obstacle on his way to 3,000 strikeouts. He was averaging 10.7 K / 9 before his forearm problems started in July. Even with his “problems” between 2017 and 2019, Kershaw never fell below 8.6 K / 9. Kershaw, like Greinke and Scherzer, will be a free agent in the winter and will do so with more than 2,400 innings (and 200 more in the postseason) on his arm.
Forecast: You’ll make it. There’s no way the Dodgers are letting him go, right? And if he keeps pitching amidst so many stars, there’s no reason to think he won’t keep going until he can. Kershaw hasn’t dropped his numbers when healthy. Three thousand strikeouts will add to his already solid Hall of Fame bonuses.
Total K: 2,560
K / 9 rate in career: 8.5
For a moment, it looked like Hamels, Kershaw, Scherzer and David Price would be on the same pitching staff. Then Hamels’ arm didn’t respond well and Los Angeles put him on the 60-day disabled list to end his 2021 before it started.
Forecast: It will fall short. He has more regular-season innings than Kershaw and is four years older. Furthermore, it has released just 3.1 episodes since the end of 2019.
Jon Lester, Cardinals
Total K: 2,469
K / 9 rating in career: 8.2
Lester is rambling between 4.00 and 5.00 ERA and will probably launch on one-year contracts from now on. His 13.6% strikeouts are the lowest among all pitchers with at least 100 innings this season.
Forecast: Lester’s Hall of Fame arguments are based on his heroic postseason performances, but 3,000 strikeouts will not be part of his record.
Chris Sale, Red Sox
Total K: 2,037
K / 9 career rate: 11.1
This is the most interesting case on the list. For one thing, Sale was at the top of the all-time K / 9 roster until last week, when Robbie Ray hit 1,000 innings to qualify for first place. On the other hand, Tommy John is just coming back from surgery. For one thing, Sale is one of just 15 pitchers in LN / LA history to hit 2,000 fans in his 30s. On the other, only seven of the other 14 reached 3,000.
Forecast: It will be closed, but Sale will make it. Pitchers tend to improve after Tommy John surgery and Sale is in stable condition in Boston, under contract until the end of 2024.
David Price (2,037 strikeouts), Adam Wainwright (1,997), Madison Bumgarner (1,936), Stephen Strasburg (1,718).
Price’s health is starting to be a problem and now he’s more of a reliever-starter hybrid. Wainwright is fighting time, but he is already 40 years old. Bumgarner’s strikeout rate plummeted in Arizona, and Strasburg’s injury history complicates it.
YOU HAVE TO PAY AN EYE ON THEM …
Gerrit Cole, Yankees
Total K: 1,647
K / 9 rate in his career: 10.4
Cole was not a candidate for 3,000 strikeouts when he was with the Pirates, but he has obviously used the time since then. The shortened 2020 season, in his prime at 29 years old and after seasons with 276 and 326 strikeouts, could take its toll in the end. He signed with the Yankees until at least 2028. The key is that he can maintain the level after 30 years.
Forecast: Cole made headlines when the “goo” topic started, but he hasn’t slowed down in the fanning department. Dismissing a health issue, there’s no reason to think Cole can’t make it.
Jacob deGrom, Mets
Total K: 1,505
K / 9 career rate: 10.7
We just saw a Jacob deGrom compete with Pedro Martínez as the most dominant pitcher we can remember, but we also witnessed the health risks of averaging triple digits of speed with each fastball thrown (and 94-96 mph). with each slider and change). He has been a 3,000-strikeout-caliber pitcher since he debuted in 2014, but injuries, including Tommy John surgery, prevented him from making his debut until he was 26.
Forecast: It’s hard to predict deGrom’s health past 30. deGrom already has a strong case for the Hall of Fame, but if he does enter, it’s probably without the traditional number of wins and strikeouts.
Puerto Rican José Berríos (27, 830 strikeouts), Venezuelan Germán Márquez (26, 807), Lucas Giolito (26, 675) and Shane Bieber (26, 629) could exceed 1,000 fans before their 30th birthday, which it leaves them with a chance if they pick up the pace.
Walker Buehler (27, 609) has the arsenal to be a strikeout artist throughout his career. Jack Flaherty (25, 563) continues to strike out, despite declining after 2019. Freddy Peralta (25, 430) lost valuable innings as a reliever, but has shone as a starter. Mexican Julio César Urías (25, 407) started early at the age of 19.
Sandy Alcantara (26, 415) has some deGrom speed traits, but he’ll need to hurry.