As the previous posting pointed out, Indians’ pitching staff of 1964-68 is the only staff in the last 75 years to lead the AL in strikeouts (SO) 5 consecutive years while SO 1100 or more batters/season, and while setting two new AL season SO records along the way. The Tigers led the AL 5 consecutive years 1939-1943, but never setting an AL mark. The Angels actually led the AL 8 consecutive years (1972-9), but never SO more than 1010 in a season.
In addition to single-season marks, the Indians also hold the record for average SO over 3 (1152), 4 (1155), and 5 (1155) consecutive years. Analyzing the data over a 5-year period substantiates the staff’s superior strikeout performance. Studying any shorter period runs the risk that any brief period might introduce a random sampling error, or any other sporadic irregularity, into the analysis. To study any longer period, while not impractical, would not allow realistic comparison to more recent staffs, where free agency virtually guarantees staffs would not stay together sufficiently long to challenge or set records. The fact that Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Sonny Siebert, and Steve Hargan were all in the first 5 years of continuous ML service from ’64-68 renders this 5-year period comparable to later staffs that would be subject to modern free agency restrictions. That the Indians actually led the AL in SO 7 of 8 years from 1963 to 1970 will be temporarily set aside, again for later discussion.
This 5-year analysis includes comparisons to AL-leading teams of the PED-era that broke the Indians’ individual single-season record of 1189 in 1967. Seattle (1207 SO in ’97), Cleveland (1213 in ’00), New York (1266 in ’01), Tampa Bay (1194 in ’07), the Yankees (1260 in '09), Boston (1207 in '10), and New York again (1222 in '11) broke the Tribe mark of 1189 while leading the AL. However, all had a lower 5-year average than the Tribe’s 1155 SO. The Boston Red Sox averaged 1161 over a 5-year period (‘99-03), while leading the AL 3 seasons (1131,1157, 1141), However, the Red Sox surpassed the Tribe’s ’67 total of 1189 twice while finishing second to the ’00 Indians and ’01 Yankees, but never setting a single-season record themselves. The Red Sox of the past 5 seasons have averaged 1189 per season, leading the AL twice once again. They, too, have SO over 1100/season, but not leading the Al in doing so. Playing in Fenway Park, with the smallest foul area in the AL, has certainly contributed to Red Sox staff’s SO over the years, where small foul area leads to more foul balls going into the stands and affording more So opportunities. The starting staff has been relatively stable: Lester, Beckett, Wakefield, Matsuzaka, Lackey, Bucholz. The Red Sox of' '07-'11 are indeed in the contention when it comes to the top SO staff in AL history.
Was the Indians staff success merely an aberration of a high-SO era, or were they indeed outdistancing the rest of the AL? Check in for the next post that studies their records compared to the rest of the AL over the '64-68 period.