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Strikeouts going up and up

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants
Yu Darvish, starting Tuesday in Philadelphia, has a 28.8% strikeout rate since joining the Dodgers.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Dodgers are closing in on a franchise record for strikeouts by their pitchers for a fifth straight season, part of a growing trend across baseball.

In 2016, the Dodgers set a major league record with 1,510 strikeouts from their pitching staff, 60 more than the previous record, held by the 2014 Indians. This year, with 12 games still remaining, the Dodgers have 1,439 strikeouts, on pace to pass that on the upcoming homestand.

But they are not alone. The Dodgers lead the National League in strikeouts in 2017 — the fifth straight season they have ranked first or second in the NL — but four American League teams have more, with Cleveland pacing MLB with 1,483 punch outs.

2017 MLB strikeout leaders:

  1. Indians 1,483
  2. Astros 1,459
  3. Red Sox 1,455
  4. Yankees 1,443
  5. Dodgers 1,439

The strikeout rate in MLB all season is 21.61%, an all-time high, and the culmination of a steady increase from a 19.78% rate five years ago.

Dodgers strikeouts 2012-2017

Year Strikeouts NL rank MLB rank MLB K rate
Year Strikeouts NL rank MLB rank MLB K rate
2017 1,439 1st 5th 21.61%
2016 1,510 1st 1st 21.12%
2015 1,396 2nd 3rd 20.39%
2014 1,373 1st 3rd 20.36%
2013 1,292 2nd 8th 19.86%
2012 1,276 4th 8th 19.78%

In 2012, the Dodgers struck out 1,276 batters, second only to their all-pitching, no-hitting 2003 team, who struck out 1,289. But beginning in 2013, the club has set a new franchise record for strikeouts in every season.

Even with the increased strikeout rate across baseball, the Dodgers are striking out batters relative to the league more than they have in recent years.

Their 26.2% strikeout rate in 2017 is a franchise record, and second only to Cleveland in MLB. With an MLB strikeout rate of 21.6% this season, the Dodgers’ K-rate+ (think ERA+ here, with 100 average and anything higher above average) at 121, their highest mark since 2003 (131) and the sixth-highest since moving to Los Angeles.

Highest LA Dodgers strikeout rates, relative to MLB

Year K rate MLB K rate K-rate+
Year K rate MLB K rate K-rate+
1960 19.08% 13.52% 141
1961 18.57% 13.65% 136
1959 17.70% 13.31% 133
2003 21.48% 16.43% 131
1962 17.30% 14.10% 123
2017 26.23% 21.61% 121
1983 16.31% 13.52% 121
1984 16.84% 14.01% 120

The best K-rate+ in franchise history came in Brooklyn in 1924. That staff, led by Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance, had a collective 10.91% strikeout rate while MLB as a whole was striking out batters at a 6.95% clip. That’s a K-rate+ of 157!

Vance was 28-6 with a 2.16 ERA in 1924, winning the major league pitching triple crown and National League MVP honors. His 262 strikeouts were 104 more than than the next-highest total (Walter Johnson), and teammate Burleigh Grimes (135 strikeouts) was the only other pitcher in baseball with even half of Vance’s strikeout total that season.

This year’s Dodgers team has 14 pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings, and 12 of them have a strikeout rate above the major league average.

The 2016 Dodgers also set a major league record for strikeouts in relief with 633, a mark that will likely be broken by at least two teams this season. The Astros (606 relief strikeouts) and Yankees (602) are closing in, with the Blue Jays (586) close behind. The 2017 Dodgers are fourth with 582 strikeouts in relief through 150 games, on pace for 629.