Aaron Judge, who many thought was the second coming of Mickey Mantle, set a dubious record this weekend.
Last night in Boston, Judge was struck out by Red Sox ace Chris Sale in the fifth inning, that K marking the 36th consecutive game that the rookie masher went down swinging at least once.
In that span, Judge has struck out an astounding 62 times, adding to his total 167 whiffs, which puts him second in all of baseball. It’s a good thing he is tied for third in all-time homers in a season by a rookie with 37, though he hasn’t been near as prolific in that stat since his strikeout string started on July 8.
For point of reference, Joey Votto, who is also a power hitter with 32 homers, has struck out just 65 times in 125 games.
At his current pace, Judge could strike out as many as 222 times this season, which would tie him for second all-time in strikeouts in a season.
He has some good company, in that many power hitters have grandiose strikeout totals. Here are the top 20 most struck out players in a season, and most of them are active (some players have multiple bad K seasons, so we had to go past numerical 20).
20. Jim Thome – 185 (2001)
With over 600 homers (612) and nearly 1,700 RBI (1,699) Thome should get into the Hall of Fame sometime after he is eligible in 2018. Thome played 2,543 games over 22 seasons and hit over 30 homers 12 times, including a MLB leading (tie) 47 big flies in 2003. He was something of an anomaly too, three times leading the American League in walks (a high of 127 in 1999) as well as being the most struck out player in both the AL and NL, on three separate occasions. His 2001 season saw many high, and one low-low point. He batted .291 that year, with 49 homers (his second highest total) and 124 RBI, while drawing 111 bases on balls for a .416 on-base percentage. However, he struck out a career high 185 times,tying him with five other players for most in the major leagues. In 156 games, he struck out at least once in 122 of them. Thome is second all-time in career strikeouts at 2,548.
19. Marlon Byrd – 185 (2014)
As he got older, journeyman outfielder Marlon Byrd starting getting rung up more frequently. Through his first 11 seasons, Byrd’s strikeout totals were relatively modest, with a high of just 98 in 152 games with the Chicago Cubs in 2010. In 2013, a season split between the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates, a 35-year-old Byrd started showing a seam in his swing, going down on strikes 144 times in 147 games. In 2014, at age 36, he re-joined his original team, the Philadelphia Phillies and things got worse. In a career high 154 games the former All-Star was set down on strikes 185 times, which led all players in that category. Of note, he was just as bad at home (93 Ks in 78 games) as he was away (92 SO in 76 contests).
18. Jay Bruce – 185 (2013)
The current Cleveland Indians rightfielder has a much a reputation for run production as he does for swinging and missing on a regular basis. While he is prized for his booming bat, Bruce is prone to missing the pitched balls more than he smacks them into gaps or over the fence. Already this season he has struck out a combined 110 times in 114 games with the New York Mets and the Tribe, but he does have 32 homers, 25 doubles and 87 RBI. In 2013, his sixth season with the Cincinnati Reds, Bruce joined the ranks of the strikeout kings, going down on strikes 185 times in 160 games. While he did win a second Silver Slugger that year for smoking a career high 74 extra base hits and driving in a career best 109 runs, he took himself out of the running for MVP with his high K total. His worst outing that year was against Oakland on June 26, when the Reds’ clean-up hitter struck out four times in four at-bats during a 5-0 loss.
17. Rob Deer – 186 (1987)
In Rob Deer’s career, it was either feast, or famine — with a heaping helping of the latter. The man who made the cover of Sports Illustrated for hitting a historical homer in 1987 to help Milwaukee win an unprecedented 12th game in a row to start a season was also a prolific strikeout victim. In fact, his 186 whiffs in 1987 was an American League record that wasn’t surpassed until Jack Cust in 2008. His other dubious mark was a .179 batting average in 1991 with Detroit, the lowest ever recorded batting average for a player with over 400 at-bats (he also struck out an AL leading 175 times that season, too). On the flip side of the coin, Deer was an above average fielder who hit for power (20 or more homers in his eight full seasons) and production (600 RBI in 1,155 games).
16. Pedro Alvarez – 186 (2013)
Pedro Alvarez turned the dirty double in 2013 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, leading the senior circuit in home runs with 36, while also being the most struck out player at 186. The big hitter is still either taking them deep or striking out with Baltimore’s AAA team this year (25 HR, 124 SO in 127 games), which pretty much sums up his professional career. The powerfully-built 3B/1B/DH was an All-Star and Silver Slugger recipient in 2013 with the Bucs, also driving in 100 runs. That 2013 campaign got off to an awful rocky start, however, as Alvarez struck out 16 times in his first 13 games, while registering just three hits and one RBI in 41 at bats.
15. Preston Wilson – 187 (2000)
At one time, Preston Wilson was a prized prospect, going in the first round of the 1992 MLB draft (9th overall) to the New York Mets. His powerful bat percolated well in the minor leagues for about five five years until he got called up to the big club. While he did hit for decent power in the minors (a high of 30 in A-AA in 1997), there was a hole in his big swing that also saw him get rung up 137 times that season as well. His promising bat, and proclivity for striking out, came to the big leagues and after being runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year with Florida in 1999, he had a watershed season in 2000, in more ways than one. That year he hit a then career high 31 homers, along with 121 RBI. But, he also went down swinging a MLB high 187 times, tying him with three other players at that mark (in other years).
14. Ian Desmond – 187 (2015)
It’s a good thing that Chicago’s Kris Bryant had a bigger hole in his bat during the 2015 campaign, otherwise Washington’s All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond would have led the NL in whiffs. As it was, Desmond struck out 187 times to Bryant’s astounding 1999 two years ago, saving him from being on the bad side of the record books. But, that doesn’t absolve the free swinger from being critiqued here. Since breaking in with the Nationals in 2009 (he is now with the Colorado Rockies) Desmond has gone down on strikes 1,115 times in 1,148 games, including that 2015 season. Add to that the fact he struck out 183 times in 2014, which gave him 370 in 310 games over two years. Four times in 2015 Desmond went 0-for-4, with four strikeouts, too.
13. Jose Hernandez – 188 (2002)
Former journeyman utility man Hernandez two best batting seasons also coincided with his two most free-swinging campaigns. An all-star in 2002 with Milwaukee for the first and only time in his career, Hernandez hit .288 with 50 extra base hits and 73 RBI. Yet, he struck out a MLB high 188 times. In 2001, he had an even better offensive season, clubbing 53 extra base hits (also a career best) and driving in a personal best 78 runs. But, he also was tops in the senior circuit that year with 185 Ks. That gave him 373 strikeouts in 304 games over two seasons and if his 177 between three clubs in 2003, that is a whopping 550 Ks in 454 contests. In 2002, he went down swinging (or looking) four times in three different games.
12. Danny Espinosa – 189 (2012)
Current Seattle Mariners infielder Danny Espinosa comes by his free-swinging ways naturally. Drafted by the Washington Nationals in the third round of the 2008 draft, Espinosa has made a career of being a decent middle infielder with a bit of pop in his bat. That bit of power came at a price, though, as he struck out 363 times in 350 minor league games at all levels. In his first full season with the Nationals in 2011, Espinosa proved his minor league credentials, hitting 55 extra base hits (21 homers), while fanning 166 times in 158 games. The next season, he was even better with the long ball, swatting a career high 56 XBH, but also leading the National League in strikeouts at a lofty 189 in 160 games. His horrible strikeout numbers were highlighted by back-to-back, 0-for-4 games in September of 2012, when he struck out all eight times.
11. Bobby Bonds – 189 (1970)
Forty-two years before Danny Espinosa was worst in the NL with 189 strikeouts, the elder Bonds was also achieving his own mediocre mark for whiffs, going down 189 times as a member of the New York Giants. Bobby’s saving grace, however, was the fact he was a fleet outfielder (career high 48 stolen bases) who could hit for power (26 homers in 1970) and average (.302). The three-time all-star and three-time Gold Glove winner was worst in the NL in 1970, a year after going down swinging 187 times in 1969, also a NL high. Bonds was also the league leader in 1973 (148 Ks) and struck out a total of 1,757 times in 1,849 career contests. Bonds, a right-handed hitter, was actually worse against lefthanded pitchers, as he was righthanders. He fanned once every four plate appearances against righties and once ever 3.5 PA’s versus southpaws.
10. Mike Napoli – 194 (2016)
Let’s call 2016 the year of the free swinger in Major League Baseball. Two of the 10 highest strikeout totals in major league history were recorded that year — but not by Mike Napoli. However, the slugging 1B/DH did tie Adam Dunn for the 19th highest single season total with 194 punch-outs with the Indians last year. That dubious total surpassed his previous personal worst total of 187 logged during the 2013 campaign with the Boston Red Sox. Now, Napoli did swat a career high 34 homers and 101 RBI for the Tribe in 2016, which saved him from too much scorn generated by those 194 strikeouts. And when he went down in 2016, he did it on a grand scale. Six times he struck out four times in a game, including three 0-for-4, four strikeout performances as well as four Ks in a memorable 19-inning match with Toronto on July 1, when he had one hit in nine at-bats.
9. Curtis Granderson – 195 (2012)
Even with 195 whiffs with the Yankees, Curtis Granderson was nowhere near the MLB’s worst strikeout king in 2012 (more on that later). It was a boom or bust campaign for the Yanks’ outfielder that year, as he hit a career high 43 homers and drove in 106 runs too. Combined with his 169 strikeouts in 2011, Granderson struck out 364 times in 316 games. But, he also smoked 41 homers in 2011, along with a AL leading 119 RBI. Some pretty heady totals for a guy who never hit more than 30 homers in a season to that point, nor drive in more than 74 runs. A three-time all-star and current member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Granderson led all of baseball in strikeouts during the 2006 season, with 174. During his personal record 2012 season, Granderson struck out 37 times in September and struck out at least once in all but five of 30 games.
8. Jack Cust – 197 (2008)
It took 21 years, and in 2008 Jack Cust finally unseated Rob Deer as the most struck out man in a American League season with 197 Ks. The power-hitting OF/DH had a short career but still managed to lead the AL in strikeouts for three straight seasons, from 2007 to 2009 with Oakland. In those three campaigns, including his record breaking 2008 year, he fanned a total of 546 times in 421 games. On the flip side, he also had a keen batting eye (309 walks, including a AL best 111 in 2008) and some power (84 homers). During the 2008 season, Cust achieved his horrible strikeout total by starting off 0-for-4 in his first game, all outs via Ks. He turned that trick two more times that season as well on the way to unseating Deer (since surpassed).
7. Ryan Howard – 199 (2007)
Ryan Howard pretty much swung — and missed — his way out of baseball. While he was a feared power hitter (he led the NL in homers twice and swatted 382 HR in 1,572 games), Howard was an alarmingly frequent strikeout victim. His 199 whiffs in 2007 were matched in 2008, when he also got punched out another 199 times. During his 2006 NL MVP season, Howard hit 58 homers, drove in 149 runs (both NL highs) and struck out 181 times. In his heyday, he would often walk a lot, too, but as he got older, the walk to strikeout ratio slipped badly. In his third last season (2014), he was tops again in strikeouts with 190, but walked just 67 times. He had two particularly awful months during that 2007 season, striking out 41 times in both June and August.
6. Kris Bryant – 199 (2015)
Funny how a lot of these big strikeout seasons coincide with personal bests in offensive categories and corresponding honors. In 2015, Kris Bryant broke into the big leagues with a bang, clobbering 26 homers and driving in 99 runs to win NL Rookie of the Year, as well as his first all-star nom and enough votes to finish 11th in the MVP race. Yet, the heralded rookie also fanned a NL high 199 times, trailing only Baltimore’s Chris Davis for all of baseball (he had 208). Bryant is a solid batter and has since brought his strikeout to walk ratio down, to the point he has 72 walks this season, against just 97 strikeouts in 116 games. The 2016 MVP certainly learned hard lessons about breaking balls and change-ups in 2015, where he fanned three or more times in 20 contests.
5. Drew Stubbs – 205 (2011)
Before he became a journeyman outfielder who has played on six different teams in the last five seasons, centerfielder Drew Stubbs was a highly thought of Cincinnati Reds prospect and then line-up fixture. Drafted in the first round (8th overall) by the Reds in 2006, the speedy outfielder had a pretty good rookie season in 2010, hitting .255 with 22 homers, 77 RBI and 30 stolen bases. Yet, he was rung up 168 times in 150 games, which was a harbinger of things to come. In 2011, he clubbed another 15 homers and stole a personal best 40 bases, but achieved the horrid distinction of striking out over 200 times. Only five different major leaguers have been struck out that many times in a season. Of his 158 games in 2011, Stubbs recorded at least one strikeout in 123 of them.
4. Chris Carter – 212 (2013)
Not many have struck out at a more historic rate in the last five seasons than current Oakland A’s farmhand Chris Carter. The big 1B/DH has been set down on strikes 827 times in 644 games, including a major league leading 212 times in 2013 and another 206 times in 2016 (second in baseball). While his horrible 212 K season in 2013 with Houston wasn’t the worst ever in the American League, it certainly paled his decent power numbers of 55 extra base hits (29 HR) and 82 RBI. Three times that season he was 0-for-4 at the plate with all outs being registered by strikeouts. April was a particularly putrid month, which saw Carter go down swinging — or looking — 46 times in 26 games, with only one of them where he was strikeout free.
3. Chris Davis – 219 (2016)
We are now in the meat of the strikeout order, so to speak. Chris Davis, now in his 10th season, has made a steady assault up the ranks of all-time strikeout leaders, leading baseball in that category each of the last two campaigns. In 2015, he whiffed a major league leading 208 times in 160 games, while also leading the AL in homers with 47. In 2013, he also smoked a AL best 53 dingers, but got rung up 199 times. He bested himself in 2016, going down swinging or by backwards K 219 times in 157 games. And adding misery to that egregious total was a record 79 strikeouts where he watched strike three (list mate Jack Cust held the record with 72 in in 2007). Of his 157 games in 2016, just 29 were strikeout free.
2. Adam Dunn – 222 (2012)
By the time he was finished his fairly illustrious offensive career, Adam Dunn was third on the all-time list in strikeouts at 2,379, in 2,001 games. The 1B/LF hit 40 or more homers six times on the way to 462 career dingers, and also led the NL three times in strikeouts and the AL once, that being his 222-K campaign in 2012 with the Chicago White Sox. He was a big free-swinger, but also managed to lead both leagues in walks (2008 with Cincinnati/Arizona at 122 and 2012 with the Chisox at 105). For now, he is the American League record holder for whiffs in a season. Dunn appeared in 151 games in 2012 and in a paltry 17 of them, he didn’t actually strike out. His worst month in a season that also saw him rip 41 homers was August, when he batted just .176 and struck out 38 times in 28 games (only two strikeout free).
1. Mark Reynolds – 223 (2009)
As of today, the all-time major league leader for strikeouts in season is also 21st on the career list with 1,764. For four straight seasons, starting in 2008, he was tops in the NL in Ks, including that 223-strikeout effort with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. This season with Colorado, he ranks 12th with 137 Ks, putting him on pace for 182. Reynolds had a Jekyll and Hyde 2009, reaching highs in extra base hits (75), doubles (30), home runs (44) and RBI (102). He also walked 76 times and hit .260 in 155 games. The corner infielder whiffed three or more times on 25 occasions that season, with a monthly high of 46 in May. He capped his awful strikeout year with 10 in only four games in October, which was low-lighted by a 0-for-4 performance (all outs via K) in his second last game.