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10. Nolan Ryan's single-season strikeout record

383
HOW LONG IT'S STOOD:
33 years (1973)

CLOSEST CALL SINCE:
372, by Randy Johnson in 2001

We'd better confess. Ryan's 5,714 career strikeouts actually got more votes than his greatest season. And so did his seven no-hitters. But we're exercising a little writer's privilege here -- and overruling our own voters.

Why? Because who the heck is ever going to approach 5,700 strikeouts? Roger Clemens has been a power pitcher for 22 seasons, and he's still 1,200 short.

And seven no-hitters wouldn't generate any buzz even if somebody came along to throw six -- because you'd never have any sense of anticipation that the seventh was on the horizon.

But a single-season record chase comes with built-in drama -- because it's a race against the calendar, a duel between one great player and the countdown to the end of the season.

"So the part of this that would be the most fun," Orel Hershiser says, "is the part where people sit around and ask each other: 'How many did he strike out last night? How many more does he need? Let's see. He got 12, so he's 50 away. He's got three starts to go. How many does he need to average?' That's where it gets cool."

But don't start that countdown yet. To break this record in a 36-start season, you would need a pitcher who averages 11 strikeouts a game. To break it in a 250-inning season, you would need a starting pitcher who averages nearly 13.5 whiffs per nine innings.

So the buzz would be no problem, laughs Hershiser, because "the guy who breaks it would be a guy who generates that buzz his whole life."

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