Saturday night, history was made in Dodger Stadium. With his fourth strikeout of the night, long-time lanky left-hander Clayton Kershaw became the all-time franchise leader in strikeouts.
Kershaw entered the night with 2,693 career strikeouts, all with the Dodgers, which left him just three behind Don Sutton's Dodgers record. In striking out Spencer Torkelson of the Tigers in the fourth inning, Kershaw moved to 2,697 and sole possession of the franchise record.
In some cases, the franchise record in strikeouts might not be the biggest deal -- Jorge De La Rosa holds the Rockies' record at 985, for example -- but the Dodgers are the most storied franchise in baseball when it comes to pitching. The Dodgers have had eight different pitchers win a combined 12 Cy Youngs, both are tops in all of the majors.
In breaking Sutton's record, that means Kershaw has now left a handful of Hall of Famers in the rearview. Here's the current Dodgers' top five in career strikeouts, up to date after Kershaw ended with seven strikeouts on Saturday night.
- Kershaw, 2,700
- Sutton, 2,696
- Don Drysdale, 2,486
- Sandy Koufax, 2,396
- Dazzy Vance, 1,918
The other four are already Hall of Famers while Kershaw is headed that way five years after his retirement, whenever that might be.
This is a high number, though the Dodgers' franchise record is not the highest among all 30 teams. Here are the teams with a higher strikeout total.
Twins - Walter Johnson, 3,509. It's an interesting one since Johnson only played for the Washington Senators, who moved to Minnesota in 1961. If we stick strictly to the franchise, this one feels awfully close to unbreakable. If you were curious on the Twins-only record, it's Bert Blyleven at 2,035.
Phillies - Steve Carlton, 3,031. Carlton is one of four pitchers in MLB history with over 4,000 strikeouts (Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens are the others), but just about 1/4 of his strikeouts came with St. Louis. Still, this is a huge number that also seems untouchable.
Braves - John Smoltz, 3,011. Look no further to Kershaw around 2,700 after all this time with the Dodgers to realize how big a number this is for a pitcher to compile with just one team. Phil Niekro is second at 2,912 with Warren Spahn third (2,493). Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux round out the top five. If any team pushes the Dodgers for the most storied collection of high-end starters, it's the Braves.
That's it. Kershaw and the Dodgers are fifth. Will he last long enough and stay signed with the Dodgers to carve into the above group?
At present, Kershaw is 34 years old. He's won three Cy Youngs and an MVP. He also finished second in Cy Young voting twice and third once. He's won five ERA titles. He's won a World Series and three pennants. If the strikeout record isn't enough, there are also these two points:
- Kershaw is the all-time Dodgers leader in WAR. Yes, including position players and including their Brooklyn years.
- Even with the strikeouts record, Kershaw is still only fifth in Dodgers history in innings and third in starts. Sutton pitched 3,816 1/3 innings in his Dodgers career. Kershaw was at 2,475 when he broke the record.
Perhaps most eye opening here is how good Kershaw has been so far in 2022. He only managed 121 2/3 innings last season and missed the playoffs due to an elbow injury. This led to one of the greatest pitchers of all-time taking just a one-year contract for this season. And while we can't say he's looked better than ever, he's really not too far off.
This is his fourth start. Coming into the game, he was 3-0 with a 2.65 ERA, 0.59 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 17 innings. He hadn't yet issued a walk.
Basically, The Great Clayton Kershaw just keeps piling up the noteworthy accomplishments.