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By Connor Thomas

 

Last night, facing the Cincinnati Reds, Aaron Nola became the first Phillie since Cole Hamels to record 1000 strikeouts in red pinstripes. With his 1000th strikeout in his still relatively young career, Nola is now the 9th Philadelphia Phillies pitcher to eclipse that mark… which seems like a small number considering the team’s history. The Phils have been operating continuously since 1883, with 2021 marking their 138th year of professional baseball. That means that they’re averaging a 1000 strikeout pitcher only once every 15 years, a slow pace by modern standards. In reality, though, the Phillies are well off compared to a majority of their Major League counterparts when it comes to pitching prowess.

I went through and compiled a list of the 30 current MLB teams, and the number of 1000 strikeout pitchers they have boasted in their history. Here’s how that ranking shook out:

  • LAD – 18
  • DET – 16
  • CLE – 13
  • SFG – 13
  • CHC – 12
  • CIN – 12
  • NYY – 12
  • CWS – 11
  • ATL – 9
  • HOU – 9
  • NYM – 9
  • PHI – 9
  • BOS – 8
  • LAA – 8
  • MIN – 8
  • OAK – 8
  • KC – 6
  • PIT – 6
  • BAL – 5
  • STL – 5
  • TOR – 5
  • WAS – 5
  • SEA – 4
  • MIL – 3
  • SD – 3
  • TB – 3
  • TEX – 3
  • ARI – 2
  • MIA – 1
  • COL – 0

It could be worse, Phillies fans. You could be the Colorado Rockies, who have not had a single 1000 strikeout pitcher since their creation in 1993. Sure, the Phillies have been around for longer than most MLB franchises, so they should rightfully dominate teams like the Nationals or Diamondbacks. However, they also match up well against their elderly counterparts. The St. Louis Cardinals have been around just as long as the Phillies, and they only have 5 such strikeout specialists. The Red Sox are another storied franchise that now sits behind Philadelphia in these rankings. In fact, the Phillies are tied for 9th on the above list (which was alphabetized for organization’s sake), putting them in the top 3rd of the MLB’s current franchises. It would nice to have the pedigree that the Los Angeles Dodgers bring to the mound, but Philadelphia’s history on the bump is nothing to sneeze at. 9 pitchers reaching the 1000 strikeout mark is not the upper echelon in the league, but it is certainly better than most.

What’s troubling about this list takes a little bit of theorizing, but there does seem to be an issue in Philadelphia, however. Again, 9 1000 strikeout arms puts the Phils in the upper 3rd of the league, but there is a group in a completely different atmosphere. The Dodgers (18), Tigers (16), Indians (13), and Giants (13), are all older franchises that dwarf Philadelphia in the rankings. So how the hell are these franchises this far ahead of one of the oldest franchises in MLB history? The argument I would make is that there has been more recent pitching success for those teams than the Phillies. It’s no secret that the past decade or 2 of baseball has seen an astronomic rise in strikeout numbers. I would wager that the past 20 years have given teams that have drafted/developed pitchers well an exponential increase of 1000 strikeout pitchers over their counterparts. This is where the Phillies got left behind. Nola joins Cole Hamels as the only Phillies pitchers to make this list since 2000. In an era where top end starters regularly push into the mid-200s for strikeouts per season, it is worrying to think that Philadelphia has only put a pair of 1000 strikeout guys on the mound. Maybe Zach Eflin will be next. Maybe Spencer Howard will pan out and become a top end arm. Still, while Nola reached a great milestone, it is a mark that reminds us as Phillies fans of the lack of pitching prospects since the turn of the century.

As the rankings stand right now, the Phillies are in the top 3rd of the league. Having 9 1000k pitchers, while it might sound measly, is actually a good mark to be at right now. And yet, if the Phillies don’t begin to develop pitching within their own organization, they’ll find themselves lower and lower on this list as strikeout numbers continue to rise across the league. This is just another reminder that the farm system and drafting needs to get it together soon, or else Philadelphia baseball will be left in the dust, and not just on the strikeout list.