Houston Astros All-Time Strikeout Leaders
The Houston Astros have been a baseball franchise since 1962, coming into the league the same year as the New York Mets. The Astros have never won a title and have only appeared in one World Series, against the White Sox in 2005. But the team has fielded some incredible players over the years, especially pitchers. What follows is a list of the Astros’ top 10 pitchers in the strikeout department:
Nolan Ryan (1866)—Nolan Ryan is one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game, and it’s almost hard to believe that after all the success he had with the Angels, that he went on to have many more great seasons with the Astros and then later with the Rangers. Ryan pitched in Houston from 1980 to 1988, and he threw smoke his entire career, with a major league best 5714 strikeouts. He tops the Astros’ all-time with 1866 strikeouts, and Ryan’s highest total in Houston was 270 K’s in 1987. That season, Ryan only went 8-16 but led the National League in strikeouts and in ERA with a 2.76 mark.
J.R. Richard (1493)—J.R. Richard was one of the game’s most dominating pitchers, but sadly his career was cut short due to injury. Richard pitched for the Astros his entire career, from 1971 to 1980, and he had a few failed comeback attempts after that. He ranks second in Astros’ history with 1493 strikeouts, and while Richard won 20 games in 1976, his best overall season was 1979. That year, Richard went 18-13 with career bests in earned run average (2.71) and strikeouts (313), both of which led the National League that season.
Larry Dierker (1487)—Larry Dierker pitched in Houston almost his entire career, from 1964 to 1976, and he ranks third in franchise history with 1487 strikeouts. Dierker had his best season in 1969, when he had career best numbers in wins (20-13), ERA (2.33) and strikeouts (232).
Roy Oswalt (1430)—Roy Oswalt is one of the game’s best pitchers, and he has played in Houston his entire career to date (since 2001) as I write this in 2009. Oswalt already ranks fourth in Astros’ history with 1430 strikeouts and he will likely move into second place soon. Oswalt struck out a career high 208 batters in 2002, but his best overall season was 2004, when he went 20-10 with a 3.49 earned run average and 206 K’s.
Mike Scott (1318)—Mike Scott had one of the nastiest split-finger fastballs in baseball history, and it sort of resurrected his career at the time. Scott pitched for Houston from 1983 to 1991 and ranks fifth in team history with 1318 strikeouts. Despite winning 20 games in 1989, Scott’s best season was 1986, when he won the NL Cy Young and led the Astros to the NLCS. That year, Scott went 18-10 with career bests in ERA (2.22) and strikeouts (306), both of which led the league that season.
Shane Reynolds (1309)—Shane Reynolds pitched in Houston most of his career, from 1992 to 2002, and ranks sixth in franchise history with 1309 strikeouts. Reynolds’ best season was 1998, when he went 19-8 with a 3.51 ERA and career high 209 K’s.
Don Wilson (1283)—Don Wilson pitched for the Astros his entire career, from 1966 to 1974, and he ranks seventh in the team’s history with 1283 strikeouts. Wilson had arguably his best season in 1969, when he went 16-12 with a 4.00 earned run average and career high 235 strikeouts in 225 innings pitched.
Joe Niekro (1178)—Joe Niekro was the younger brother of Phil Niekro, and Joe pitched for the Astros from 1975 to 1985, ranking eighth in their history with 1178 strikeouts. Niekro had a few seasons with 20 or more wins, but his career high in K’s was in 1983 with 152. That year, Niekro also went 15-14 with a 3.48 ERA. He sadly passed away in 2006 from a brain aneurysm at the age of 61.
Darryl Kile (973)—Darryl Kile pitched in Houston for most of his career, from 1991 to 1997, and ranks ninth in franchise history with 973 strikeouts. Kile had a career high 219 K’s in 1996, but his best overall season in Houston was 1997, when he went 19-7 with a career best 2.57 ERA and 205 strikeouts. Sadly, Kile passed away suddenly while he was with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2002, at the age of 33.
Bob Knepper (946)—Bob Knepper pitched in Houston most of his career, from 1981 to 1989, and he ranks tenth in team history with 946 strikeouts. Knepper didn’t have overpowering stuff, but he was what they called a “crafty lefty.” His best season in Houston was 1986, when Knepper went 17-12 with a 3.14 ERA and 143 strikeouts.