On this date in 1986, Roger Clemens set a new MLB record with 20 strikeouts in one game. Here's the box score. The then-23-year-old Clemens was in his first full season as a big leaguer, during which he went 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA, earning him both the AL Cy Young and MVP awards.
Here's the video of the 20-strikeout game:
The previous record of 19 strikeouts had been done seven times, including four times by Nolan Ryan. Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton and Luis Tiant had the others.
Clemens threw a second 20-strikeout game 10 years later, during his final season with the Red Sox in 1996. Kerry Wood and Randy Johnson are the only other pitchers to fan 20 batters in one game.
The average strikeout rate in MLB right now is 7.96 K/9 and 20.8 percent of batters faced, which would shatter the previous record if it holds up all season. The previous record? That would be 7.57 K/9 and 19.9 percent set just last season.
Strikeouts are sky high right now for a number of reasons, including hitters who sell out for power and pitchers who are throwing harder and harder every year. Specialized relievers and improved scouting/video work have played a role as well.
Prediction: Someone will strike out 21 batters in a game before the end of the decade.