As the saying goes, records are made to be broken. Baseball, however, is a sport that loves its records. They are treated as though they are living breathing entities not to be tampered with. The rules have largely remained the same since the first truly professional team took the field 1869. This unique aspect allows us to compare the stats of players who’s lifetimes never overlapped let alone playing careers. While the game itself is largely the same, the way in which it has been played has varied greatly throughout its nearly 150-year history. Pitching in general looks incredibly different now than it did even 50 or 100 years ago. While not every record below is from an era before we were all alive the most unbreakable ones are. I have chosen to simply list these in no order since I believe that none of these records can or will ever be approached.
Single Season Wins – 59
Career Wins – 511
Career ERA – 1.82
Career Innings Pitched – 7,356
Career Complete Games – 749
Single Season Shutouts – 16
Career Shutouts – 110
Career Walks – 2,795
Career Strikeouts – 5,714
Career No-Hitters – 7
This record, held by Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn, might be the easiest record to prove isn’t in danger of being broken. The last time a pitcher started 59 or more games in a season was 1892 when Amos Rusie started 62 and Bill Hutchinson started 70. In fact, no pitcher has started more than 40 games since Phil Niekro started 44 in 1979. Through a series of events that Radbourn played more than a small part of the team only had one legitimate pitcher left, Radbourn. He volunteered to pitch every game from July 23rd on. While he didn’t pitch in every game he did pitch in 40 of the teams remaining 43 games.
Cy Young, yes, he has an award named after him, is the owner of this unbreakable record. The only man within 100 wins of this record is 94 wins shy and his career ended in 1927. In case you are wondering the active player with the most wins is 44-year old Bartolo Colon who sits a 233. Young played for 22 years winning 30 or more games five times and 20 or more 15 times.
Held for 100 years, Ed Walsh gets the honor of owning this unbreakable record. As unrealistic as it may seem, this may be the only record on here that may someday get broken. Walsh played 14 seasons accumulating nearly 3,000 innings (2,964 1/3). Mariano Riviera recently concluded his career with a 2.20 ERA placing him 13th all time and Clayton Kershaw is currently sitting in 24th place at 2.37. While it’s unlikely that Kershaw can seriously threaten this record maybe someday soon we might be lucky enough to witness a pitcher that combines Bob Gibson, Dwight Gooden and Sandy Koufax. That’s what it will take. A big ask but not impossible like most of the others here.
Making his second of three appearances on this list Mr. Cy Young holds this gem. His lead is a comfortable 1,352 2/3 innings over the second place and long since retired Pud Gavin. This record can be chalked up to the result of a bygone era. There are only two active players who have more than 3,000 innings pitched. One is a 44-year-old and the other a 36-year-old who seems to be fading fast. No one has come within 2,000 inning of this record since the early 1990s.
For the third and final time let me present to you the unmatched Cy Young. Second place behind Young has 103 fewer and since 1942 only Warren Spahn has pitched half as many complete games as Young. Considering the active leader, C.C. Sabathia, has 38 I think Cy Young will hold this record for eternity.
Pete Alexander (1916) and George Bradley (1876) are co-owners of this unbreakable record. 1985 was the last time a pitcher compiled double-digit shutouts when John Tutor tossed 10. Bob Gibson tossed his third place 13 in 1968. Felix Hernandez is the active player who has pitched the most shutouts in a season, 5. Seeing as no pitcher has pitched at least 16 complete games since 1987 I don’t see this record to be in any jeopardy.
The great Walter Johnson is the only player to toss triple digit shutouts in a career. During Johnson’s 21-year career his threw at least four shutouts in a season 14 times, only three other pitchers have done that at least ten times; Christy Mathewson, Warren Spahn, Eddie Plank, and Cy Young. Second place is 20 behind him and the active pitcher with the most is Clayton Kershaw with 15.
Lynn Ryan, you probably know him better as Nolan Ryan, is the holder of this inauspicious record. Maybe the most successful pitcher who was effectively wild. He led the league in walks eight times during his 27-year career, twice walking more than 200 batters in a season and walking more than 100 batters in 11 different years a Major League record. To put this total into perspective only 20 pitchers in history struck out more players than Ryan walked.
Remember, I said effectively wild. And man, Nolan Ryan could be effective when his fastball, curveball combo was on. Ryan had six seasons of 300 or more strikeouts tied with Randy Johnson for the most and 15 seasons of 200 or more strikeouts two more than second place Randy Johnson. He also led his league in strikeouts 11 times including each year between the ages of 40-43. He has 839 more Ks than second place Randy Johnson and with the most by an active player being barely more than half (C.C. Sabathia – 2,726) I don’t believe anyone will threaten this record.
Again, effectively wild. Nolan Ryan, like Cy Young, makes his third and final appearance. While his seven isn’t quite double second place Sandy Koufax‘s four it is 3.5 times the active leaders Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Jake Arrieta. No-hitters are one of the most unpredictable occurrences in all of Major League Baseball. Ryan was able to collect seven because of two reasons. First and most importantly, luck. Secondly, he struck out batters at a high rate. The easiest way to toss a no-hitter is for your pitches to miss bats consistently. Koufax pitched four, Bob Feller 3, and Randy Johnson 2. But greats such as Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux never threw one.