In his most recent start Felix Hernandez recorded his 2,000th career strikeout. He became the 73rd pitcher to reach that mark, which means that on its own it is an accomplishment, but not especially rare. What makes Hernandez's case special is that he's reached 2,000 strikeouts and is still only 29 years old. In baseball history, only eight pitchers have reached this particular milestone before their 30th birthday. Felix is keeping very impressive company, as six of the other seven members of the group are inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (The seventh member saw his ride to Cooperstown derailed by wildness and drinking.)
Youngest pitchers to reach 2,000 strikeouts:
- Bert Blyleven: 28 years, 97 days (July 12, 1979)
- Sam McDowell: 28 years, 228 days (May 7, 1971)
- Walter Johnson: 28 years, 234 days (June 28, 1916)
- Felix Hernandez: 29 years, 32 days (May 10, 2015)
- Nolan Ryan: 29 years, 213 days (August 31, 1976)
- Sandy Koufax: 29 years, 241 days (August 28, 1965)
- Don Drysdale: 29 years, 320 days (June 8, 1966)
- Bob Feller: 29 years, 335 days (October 3, 1948)
It must be noted that by the time Bob Feller reached 2,000 strikeouts, he'd missed almost four full seasons while serving in the United States Navy during World War II. It is entirely possible that Feller would have reached 2,000 before turning 26, had he not become the first American professional athlete to enlist for the war. Anything but a catastrophic injury would have allowed him to get there at a younger age than Blyleven, had Feller not been serving his country.
As is, Felix Hernandez just became the fourth-youngest player ever to reach the milestone. The median career strikeout total for the other seven pitchers on the list above is Walter Johnson's 3,509, which ranks 9th all-time. It'll be years before we know where Felix's total will end up, but a few weeks past his 29th birthday, he's been among the best.