The MLB Pitchers with the Most Career Postseason Strikeouts
MLB Stats and Records
During the MLB postseason, pitchers face off against the toughest lineups in the league. It takes both discipline and dominance to find consistent strikeout success against those skilled hitters, and over the course of MLB history a few special pitchers have always risen to the occasion with clutch performances in the biggest games. Get Free MLB Picks and MLB Predictions for every game all season long at Sports Chat Place.
These are the MLB pitchers with the most career postseason strikeouts.
1. Justin Verlander, 205 (187.2 IP) - Following a successful amateur career with Old Dominion (and a silver medal in the 2003 Pan American Games), Verlander burst onto the MLB scene in 2005 with the Detroit Tigers and went 17-9 in his first full season, winning AL Rookie of the Year. He had some relatively minor postseason success in Detroit, but Verlander really blossomed when he became a member of the Astros, helping to win a World Series in 2017 after getting traded to Houston just before the deadline that summer.
2. John Smoltz, 199 (209.0 IP) - Affectionately nicknamed “Smoltzie” and “Marmaduke,” Smoltz is one of the best modern-era MLB pitchers ever. During a career that spanned from 1988-2009, Smoltz was an eight-time All-Star, a World Series winner (1995), a Cy Young winner (1996) and was a perennial fixture on those incredibly dominant Braves teams in the 1990s. Smoltz was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2015 and had his number (29) retired by Atlanta.
3. Andy Pettitte, 183 (276.2 IP) - Though he also played for the Astros during a few seasons (helping the team to their first World Series appearance in 2005), Pettitte is best known as a Yankee and won five World Series titles in New York. He played 18 seasons in the MLB and was elected to three All-Star teams. Over his career, Pettitte carried a 3.85 ERA and racked up 2,448 total strikeouts.
4. Roger Clemens, 173 (199.0 IP) - Perhaps the most dominant MLB pitcher of his time, Clemens played for four different teams (the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros) during his 24 seasons in the major leagues. He struck out a record 20 batters in a game not once but twice, and won a whopping seven Cy Young Awards with two World Series wins and 11 All-Star appearances. Had Clemens not been swept up in the steroid scandal later in his career due to the infamous Mitchell Report, he’d have been an automatic first-ballot Hall-of Famer.
5. Clayton Kershaw, 170 (158.1 IP) - Kershaw debuted in the MLB in 2008 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and immediately hit the ground running as the youngest player in the league. Thanks to his youth, Kershaw immediately received extra opportunities to flourish in the postseason, and in 2009 at just 21 years old he became the third-youngest pitcher to ever start a playoff series opener (trailing only Fernando Valenzuela and Rick Ankiel).
6. Mike Mussina, 145 (139.2 IP) - Nicknamed “Moose,” Mussina played his entire 18-year MLB career in the American League East, first with the Baltimore Orioles and then the New York Yankees. Mussina only made the postseason twice with Baltimore (despite the notable career milestone of starting and winning Cal Ripken Jr’s record-breaking 2,131st consecutive game during the 1995 season) but got some more playoff strikeout opportunities with New York. Mussina won seven Gold Glove awards during his career and made the Hall of Fame in 2019.
7. Tom Glavine, 143 (218.1 IP) - Glavine is another MLB pitcher to benefit from the Braves’ run of National League dominance during the 1990s, though he also played for the Mets from 2003-2007. Among Glavine’s Hall-of-Fame accolades are 10 All-Star selections, two NL Cy Young Awards and a World Series championship with a World Series MVP award in 1995. Glavine bagged 91.9 percent of the HOF vote in 2014, his first year of eligibility.
8. Max Scherzer, 137 (112.0 IP) - Scherzer immediately established himself during his first Major League game with the Diamondbacks in 2008, setting a record for consecutive hitters retired in a relief appearance in an MLB debut with 13. He got even better as he went along, posting a 19-1 record to start the season in 2013, his first Cy Young Award campaign. Scherzer was a key part of the Washington Nationals’ epic World Series championship run in 2019.
9. Jon Lester, 133 (154.0 IP) - Lester will always be near and dear to the hearts of Red Sox fans, as he started and won the final game of the 2007 World Series. That was just a taste of Lester’s postseason talents, and he’d go on to win another championship with Boston in 2013. Lester is also beloved in Chicago, as he helped the Cubs to their first World Series title in over a century in 2016.
10. Randy Johnson, 132 (121.0 IP) - Standing at 6 ft 10 in, Johnson was an imposing presence on the MLB mound. “The Big Unit” played for 22 seasons in the Major Leagues, racking up more than enough stats to place his name among the greatest pitchers of all time. Johnson played for six different teams during his professional tenure, winning five Cy Young Awards, 10 All-Star selections and a World Series MVP Award during his championship season in 2001. Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015 during his first year on the ballot, with 97.3 percent of the vote.