Strikeout-To-Hit Ratio: The Big Unit Was Absolutely Dominant

Strikeout-to-walk ratio is a common statistic used in measuring pitchers (in 2014: Phil Hughes good; Edinson Volquez not so good). But what about strikeout-to-hit ratios? Which pitchers strike out the most batters relative to the number of hits they gave up in a season?

Ball8StatsJon Becker (@mlbrandomfandom) of the Ball Eight research department put together a list of the best K/H ratios in modern baseball history: Pitchers have put up a K/H ratio of of 1.5/1 or better just 56 times in the last 114 years. (In other words, they recorded 50 percent more strikeouts – or more – in a season than they gave up hits.)

The research showed the feat should simply be called “The Big Unit.”

The table below – sorted by number of strikeouts – demonstrates just how dominant Randy Johnson was, both at his peak and throughout his career. Johnson recorded 12 of the 56 Big Units in history, including every year from 1991-95 and 1997-2002 – or every year between 1991 and 2002 except 1996.

His best Big Unit Year came in 2001, when he had a 2.06 K/H ratio – or more than double the number of strikeouts to hits. His next best was 1997, when he had a 1.97 K/H ratio.

Here are the top Big Unit seasons in modern baseball history:

  • Pedro Martinez, 2000, 2.22 K/H
  • Randy Johnson, 2001, 2.06
  • Kerry Wood, 1998, 1.99
  • Nolan Ryan, 1972, 1.98
  • Randy Johnson, 1997, 1.97
  • Pedro Martinez, 1999, 1.96
  • Pedro Martinez, 1997, 1.93

Ryan recorded 10 Big Units, but tended to give up more hits than Johnson and Martinez, who record four Big Units of his own. Clayton Kershaw has two so far, and – interestingly – Roger Clemens recorded only one in his career.

Here are all 56 Big Units, including five in the last two seasons (Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer and Jose Fernandez, 2013; and Kershaw and Chris Sale, 2014):

Rk Player SO H Year Age Tm Lg G GS CG SHO W L IP ER BB ERA FIP ERA+ OBP SLG
1 Nolan Ryan 383 238 1973 26 CAL AL 41 39 26 4 21 16 326.0 104 162 2.87 2.49 123 .302 .303
2 Sandy Koufax 382 216 1965 29 LAD NL 43 41 27 8 26 8 335.2 76 71 2.04 1.93 160 .227 .280
3 Randy Johnson 372 181 2001 37 ARI NL 35 34 3 2 21 6 249.2 69 71 2.49 2.13 188 .274 .309
4 Nolan Ryan 367 221 1974 27 CAL AL 42 41 26 3 22 16 332.2 107 202 2.89 2.98 118 .313 .279
5 Randy Johnson 364 207 1999 35 ARI NL 35 35 12 2 17 9 271.2 75 70 2.48 2.76 184 .266 .335
6 Randy Johnson 347 202 2000 36 ARI NL 35 35 8 3 19 7 248.2 73 76 2.64 2.53 181 .288 .356
7 Nolan Ryan 341 198 1977 30 CAL AL 37 37 22 4 19 16 299.0 92 204 2.77 3.12 141 .329 .256
8 Randy Johnson 334 197 2002 38 ARI NL 35 35 8 4 24 5 260.0 67 71 2.32 2.66 195 .273 .346
9 Randy Johnson 329 203 1998 34 TOT ML 34 34 10 6 19 11 244.1 89 86 3.28 2.90 135 .300 .344
10 Nolan Ryan 329 166 1972 25 CAL AL 39 39 20 9 19 16 284.0 72 157 2.28 2.49 128 .291 .246
11 Nolan Ryan 327 193 1976 29 CAL AL 39 39 21 7 17 18 284.1 106 183 3.36 2.91 99 .322 .284
12 Sam McDowell 325 178 1965 22 CLE AL 42 35 14 3 17 11 273.0 66 132 2.18 2.08 161 .286 .244
13 Curt Schilling 319 208 1997 30 PHI NL 35 35 7 2 17 11 254.1 84 58 2.97 2.62 143 .271 .372
14 Pedro Martinez 313 160 1999 27 BOS AL 31 29 5 1 23 4 213.1 49 37 2.07 1.39 243 .248 .288
15 Randy Johnson 308 185 1993 29 SEA AL 35 34 10 3 19 8 255.1 92 99 3.24 3.05 135 .290 .322
16 Mike Scott 306 182 1986 31 HOU NL 37 37 7 5 18 10 275.1 68 72 2.22 2.16 161 .242 .291
17 Pedro Martinez 305 158 1997 25 MON NL 31 31 13 4 17 8 241.1 51 67 1.90 2.39 219 .250 .277
18 J.R. Richard 303 192 1978 28 HOU NL 36 36 16 3 18 11 275.1 95 141 3.11 2.51 106 .298 .283
19 Nolan Ryan 301 162 1989 42 TEX AL 32 32 6 2 16 10 239.1 85 98 3.20 2.51 124 .275 .283
20 Randy Johnson 294 159 1995 31 SEA AL 30 30 6 3 18 2 214.1 59 65 2.48 2.08 193 .266 .303
21 Randy Johnson 291 147 1997 33 SEA AL 30 29 5 2 20 4 213.0 54 77 2.28 2.82 197 .277 .318
22 Randy Johnson 290 177 2004 40 ARI NL 35 35 4 2 16 14 245.2 71 44 2.60 2.30 176 .241 .315
23 Pedro Martinez 284 128 2000 28 BOS AL 29 29 7 4 18 6 217.0 42 32 1.74 2.17 291 .213 .259
24 Sam McDowell 283 181 1968 25 CLE AL 38 37 11 3 15 14 269.0 54 110 1.81 2.25 165 .278 .263
25 Yu Darvish 277 145 2013 26 TEX AL 32 32 0 0 13 9 209.2 66 80 2.83 3.28 145 .277 .334
Rk Player SO H Year Age Tm Lg G GS CG SHO W L IP ER BB ERA FIP ERA+ OBP SLG
26 Dwight Gooden 276 161 1984 19 NYM NL 31 31 7 3 17 9 218.0 63 73 2.60 1.69 137 .269 .275
27 Roger Clemens 271 169 1998 35 TOR AL 33 33 5 3 20 6 234.2 69 88 2.65 2.65 174 .277 .296
28 Nolan Ryan 270 154 1987 40 HOU NL 34 34 0 0 8 16 211.2 65 87 2.76 2.47 142 .284 .292
29 Kerry Wood 266 152 2003 26 CHC NL 32 32 4 2 14 11 211.0 75 100 3.20 3.71 136 .312 .344
30 Johan Santana 265 156 2004 25 MIN AL 34 34 1 1 20 6 228.0 66 54 2.61 2.92 182 .249 .315
31 Luis Tiant 264 152 1968 27 CLE AL 34 32 19 9 21 9 258.1 46 73 1.60 2.04 186 .233 .262
32 Herb Score 263 162 1956 23 CLE AL 35 33 16 5 20 9 249.1 70 129 2.53 2.77 166 .288
33 Tim Lincecum 261 168 2009 25 SFG NL 32 32 4 2 15 7 225.1 62 68 2.48 2.34 171 .271 .290
34 Jason Schmidt 251 165 2004 31 SFG NL 32 32 4 3 18 7 225.0 80 77 3.20 2.92 136 .272 .323
35 Herb Score 245 158 1955 22 CLE AL 33 32 11 2 16 10 227.1 72 154 2.85 3.29 141 .322
36 Randy Johnson 241 154 1992 28 SEA AL 31 31 6 2 12 14 210.1 88 144 3.77 3.61 105 .344 .307
37 Max Scherzer 240 152 2013 28 DET AL 32 32 0 0 21 3 214.1 69 56 2.90 2.74 144 .254 .329
38 Clayton Kershaw 239 139 2014 26 LAD NL 27 27 6 2 21 3 198.1 39 31 1.77 1.81 197 .231 .289
39 Oliver Perez 239 145 2004 22 PIT NL 30 30 2 1 12 10 196.0 65 81 2.98 3.45 143 .295 .359
40 Pedro Martinez 239 144 2002 30 BOS AL 30 30 2 0 20 4 199.1 50 40 2.26 2.24 202 .254 .309
41 Hideo Nomo 236 124 1995 26 LAD NL 28 28 4 3 13 6 191.1 54 78 2.54 2.89 149 .270 .286
42 Kerry Wood 233 117 1998 21 CHC NL 26 26 1 1 13 6 166.2 63 85 3.40 3.16 129 .306 .320
43 Nolan Ryan 232 137 1990 43 TEX AL 30 30 5 2 13 9 204.0 78 74 3.44 2.87 114 .267 .322
44 Randy Johnson 228 151 1991 27 SEA AL 33 33 2 1 13 10 201.1 89 152 3.98 4.00 103 .358 .325
45 Sam McDowell 225 130 1966 23 CLE AL 35 28 8 5 9 8 194.1 62 102 2.87 2.71 120 .297 .284
46 Erik Bedard 221 141 2007 28 BAL AL 28 28 1 1 13 5 182.0 64 57 3.16 3.19 146 .278 .337
47 Kerry Wood 217 127 2001 24 CHC NL 28 28 1 1 12 6 174.1 65 92 3.36 3.51 124 .311 .315
48 Sandy Koufax 216 134 1962 26 LAD NL 28 26 11 2 14 7 184.1 52 57 2.54 2.15 143 .261 .290
49 Chris Sale 208 129 2014 25 CHW AL 26 26 2 0 12 4 174.0 42 39 2.17 2.57 178 .262 .305
50 Randy Johnson 204 132 1994 30 SEA AL 23 23 9 4 13 6 172.0 61 72 3.19 3.18 152 .304 .338
Rk Player SO H Year Age Tm Lg G GS CG SHO W L IP ER BB ERA FIP ERA+ OBP SLG
51 Nolan Ryan 203 102 1991 44 TEX AL 27 27 2 2 12 6 173.0 56 72 2.91 2.75 140 .263 .285
52 Nolan Ryan 194 119 1986 39 HOU NL 30 30 1 0 12 8 178.0 66 82 3.34 3.06 107 .283 .314
53 Jose Fernandez 187 111 2013 20 MIA NL 28 28 0 0 12 6 172.2 42 58 2.19 2.73 175 .257 .265
54 Clayton Kershaw 185 119 2009 21 LAD NL 31 30 0 0 8 8 171.0 53 91 2.79 3.08 143 .306 .282
55 Sid Fernandez 180 108 1985 22 NYM NL 26 26 3 0 9 9 170.1 53 80 2.80 3.08 125 .279 .302
56 Al Downing 171 114 1963 22 NYY AL 24 22 10 4 13 5 175.2 50 80 2.56 2.42 138 .277 .265

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