On Saturday, Mike Trout hit another milestone in his already outstanding baseball career, although his first four-strikeout game in the majors was a milestone he would have preferred to have taken longer to achieve. After the game, Trout said all the things one would expect him to say after a four-strikeout effort: he tipped his hat to starting pitcher Max Scherzer, mentioned the Angels failed to capitalize on the few mistakes Scherzer did make, and that he’ll take the same approach into the next game. Four-strikeout games are more commonplace in 2014 — many would argue far too common — but it took Mike Trout 353 career games to have his first “golden sombrero.” One of the more fun things about Mike Trout is that we can justifiably compare him to other great players in baseball history.
So let’s see how many games it took for other great players in baseball history to rack up their first four-strikeout game. Encompassed among the group of 45 players I looked at were the top 25 in Offensive WAR according to Baseball Reference, as well as other great players who have strong Hall of Fame candidacies.
It took less than 100 games for Mike Schmidt, Derek Jeter, Pete Rose, Alex Rodriguez, and Barry Bonds to have their first four-strikeout game. While they all took quick paths to a four-strikeout game, it only took Reggie Jackson 11 games to get his first of what would be 22 career four-strikeout games (in addition to one five-strikeout game). A hero to a generation of baseball fans, Mickey Mantle had his first four-strikeout effort in his 192nd career game on August 6, 1952 against Walt Masterson, who twice struck out Yogi Berra and Mantle back-to-back. Miguel Cabrera, the player Trout has finished runner-up to in the last two MVP races, required only 40 games to reach his first four-K game. Perhaps the greatest leadoff hitter of all time, Rickey Henderson, came seven games short of tying Trout’s 353 games, as it took Henderson 346 games to hit the four-strikeout mark.
The list of players who needed more games than Trout’s 353 to have their first four-K game is an interesting list because of their respective career feats. Sluggers Ken Griffey, Jr., Hank Greenberg, Harmon Killebrew, and Willie Mays all had over 380 games under their belt before notching their first four-strikeout game. Jimmie Foxx and Craig Biggio played over 900 games to reach their first; Willie McCovey, Manny Ramirez, and Roberto Clemente played over 1,000 games; and Chipper Jones and Robin Yount played over 2,000 games to reach their first four-strikeout game.
|Player||Games to First Four-Strikeout Game|
|Cal Ripken, Jr.||370|
|Ken Griffey, Jr.||381|
However this type of discussion would not be complete without mentioning the players who’ve NEVER had a four-strikeout game (at least, since 1914, which is as far back as I found data for). Babe Ruth, along with his 714 home runs, never had a single four-strikeout game in his career. Neither did the man who broke his record. Hank Aaron played in 3,298 games over 23 seasons and never had a four-strikeout game. Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and Mel Ott never had four strikeouts in a game. In more recent vintage, Tony Gwynn, Barry Larkin, George Brett, and Carl Yastrzemski never had four K’s in a game. Two players in the latter half of their potentially Hall of Fame careers, Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols have yet to put a four-strikeout performance into a box score.
|Players with Zero Four-Strikeout Games|