Jon Lester yesterday became the 10th Boston pitcher to record 200 strikeouts. Quick, name the other nine.
It's easy to guess Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Cy Young. We probably remember Curt Schilling and Daisuke Matsuzaka, both coming in the past five years. I guessed Luis Tiant correctly, and of course there was Jim Lonborg's one-pitch wonder season of 1967. That makes eight.
If you guessed Smoky Joe Wood, you're a better off-the-cuff historian than I, although his 1912 season is in retrospect a no-brainer. And winner for most obscure — and statistically worst — 200-strikeout season in Red Sox history is Hideo Nomo's lone season in Boston, 2001. 220 strikeouts, a no-hitter, a one-hitter … and a 4.50 ERA.
Young had the first 200-strikeout season for the Boston Americans, racking up an even 200 in 380 innings in 1904 while winning 26 games and posting a 1.97 ERA. He repeated the feat in 1905 with an even better season — 210 Ks in 320.2 innings and a 1.82 ERA.
Those raw dead-ball numbers still don't hold a candle to the two most impressive seasons of Pedro Martinez's stellar career nearly 100 years later. In 1999, he became the only Sox pitcher to break the 300-strikeout barrier. He posted 313 strikeouts in 213.1 innings, going 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA. The next season, he struck out a mere 284 batters, won only 18 games, and posted an ERA of 1.74, the lowest ERA of any Sox pitcher to K at least 200.
Thanks in large part to Pedro, the Sox went six consecutive seasons with a pitcher above 200 strikeouts. Martinez in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004 did the trick, while Nomo filled in the gap in 2001. Curt Schilling added 203 in 2004, making that the only Sox season with two 200-strikeout pitchers.
After Smoky Joe dazzled opponents in 1911 and 1912 (258 Ks in 344 innings, 34-5 record, 1.91 ERA in that masterful season), the Sox went 55 years before seeing another 200-strikeout season. Jim Lonborg's Cy Young year led the Sox to the pennant in 1967. Luis Tiant's 1973 campaign was the only other 200-K season between the dea-ball era and Roger Clemens, who did it an astounding seven consecutive seasons, from 1986 to 1992, then reprising the feat in his final season in Boston, 1996. He nearly topped 300 in 1988, coming nine short, led the league in complete games, shutouts, K/9, K/BB ratio … and finished sixth in the Cy Young voting.