With just over a month left in the 2016 season, the Washington Nationals starting rotation is on pace to become the first in Major League Baseball history to strike out 1,000 batters.
A few teams’ starting rotations have gotten close, including the 2015 Cleveland Indians, who finished the season with 969 strikeouts and the current record-holding 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks, who finished the season with 992 strikeouts.
If the Nationals aces maintain their current strikeout rate, they will end the season with 1,012 strikeouts, as this graphic of the 10 starting rotations with the highest single-season strikeout totals shows.
Will the Nationals starters break the record?
Even the best starting rotations fade in the season’s final month. The 162-game season wears down arms, which requires teams to shut down young pitchers by limiting starts. And contending teams, like the 2016 Nationals, rest their stars in preparation for the playoffs.
The 2002 Diamondbacks and 2015 Indians were on pace to break the 1,000-strikeout mark after August, but both slumped as the season ended.
As the graphic below shows, Cleveland’s strikeout rate dropped by more than one per start after August, and they fell 31 shy of breaking 1,000. The Diamondbacks, who currently hold the record for most strikeouts by a rotation with 992, saw their starters’ strikeout rate drop by 0.72 per game after August.
The Nationals can still post the first 1,000-strikeout season even if their pace drops from their current rate of 6.27 strikeouts per start. But if they fall under 5.83 strikeouts per start over the next month, they will fall short.