Atlanta Braves’ All-Time Strikeout Leaders
The Atlanta Braves began play in 1876 but back then they were in Boston and known as the Red Caps. They went through various names and became the Braves in 1912, moved to Milwaukee in 1953, and then to Atlanta in 1966. The Braves are a proud franchise and have been extremely competitive most of the time. And they had a knack for fielding some of the game’s great pitchers, especially in the last 20 years or so. Here is a list of the Braves’ top 10 pitchers in the strikeout category:
John Smoltz (3011)—John Smoltz has pitched most of his major league career in Atlanta up until 2009 (so from 1988 to 2008) when the Red Sox signed him. Smoltz is a sure bet for the Hall of Fame, as he has 211 wins and 154 saves as I write this in 2009, and he’s also crossed the 3000 strikeout plateau. Smoltz, along with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, formed perhaps the greatest trio of starting pitchers in baseball history for several years, helping the Braves win a World Series in 1995 and contending almost every year. Smoltz leads the Braves all-time with 3011 strikeouts, and his best season was his Cy Young winning campaign of 1996, when he went 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA and career high 276 K’s.
Phil Niekro (2912)—Knuckleballer Phil Niekro pitched for the Braves most of his career, from 1964 to 1983, and again in 1987. Niekro ranks second in Braves’ history with 2912 strikeouts, and he struck out a career high 262 batters in 1977 despite a 16-20 record. Niekro’s best season was 1969, when he was the NL Cy Young runner-up by going 23-13 with a 2.56 earned run average and 193 strikeouts.
Warren Spahn (2493)—Hall of Famer Warren Spahn won 363 games over the course of his career, and he pitched with the Braves from 1942 to 1964, in both Boston and Milwaukee. Spahn ranks third in franchise history with 2493 strikeouts, and he had a career high 191 K’s in 1950. But Spahn’s best overall season was 1953, when he went 23-7 with a 2.10 ERA (the wins and ERA led the league) with 148 strikeouts.
Tom Glavine (2091)—Tom Glavine pitched for the Braves from 1987 to 2002, and again in 2008. He was the lefty that balanced out the amazing trio that also included righthanders Smoltz and Maddux. Glavine ranks fourth in Braves’ history with 2091 strikeouts, and he won two NL Cy Young Awards. One of those seasons was 1991, arguably Glavine’s best, when he went 20-11 with a 2.55 earned run average and career high 192 K’s.
Greg Maddux (1828)—Greg Maddux is another surefire Hall of Famer, and he pitched for the Braves from 1993 to 2003, winning 194 games while playing in Atlanta. Maddux ranks fifth in team history with 1828 strikeouts, and he had a career high 204 of them in 1998. But Maddux’ best season was one of his four NL Cy Young Award seasons, the championship year of 1995. That year, Maddux had a near-perfect season—19-2 with a 1.63 ERA, 181 strikeouts to only 23 walks, 10 complete games and 3 shutouts.
Kid Nichols (1667)—Kid Nichols pitched for this franchise when they were the Boston Beaneaters, from 1890 to 1901, and he ranks sixth in their history with 1667 strikeouts. Nichols had seven seasons with 30 or more wins, and his best season was 1891, when he went 30-17 with a 2.39 ERA and career high 240 K’s.
Vic Willis (1161)—Vic Willis also pitched for the Boston Beaneaters, from 1898 to 1905, and he ranks seventh in franchise history with 1161 strikeouts. Willis had his best overall season in 1902 despite losing 20 games (27-20), when he also had an earned run average of 2.20 and career high 225 strikeouts.
Jim Whitney (1157)—Jim Whitney pitched for this franchise when they were the Red Caps and the Beaneaters, from 1881 to 1885, and over that time racked up an incredible 1157 strikeouts, ranking him eighth in the team’s history. Whitney had his best season perhaps in 1883, when he went 37-21 with a 2.24 ERA and career best 345 K’s.
Lew Burdette (923)—Lew Burdette pitched for the Braves from 1951 to 1963 in both Boston and Milwaukee, and he ranks ninth in franchise history with 923 K’s. Burdette had his best season in 1958, when he went 20-10 with a 2.91 ERA and career high 113 strikeouts.
Charlie Buffinton (911)—Charlie Buffinton pitched for the franchise when they were the Boston Red Caps and Beaneaters from 1882 to 1886, and he ranks tenth in team’s history with 911 strikeouts. Buffinton’s best season and one of the greatest by a pitcher in history was 1884—that year, he went 48-16 with a 2.15 earned run average and 417 K’s (sixth best total for a single season in baseball history).