Last week, starter Frankie Montas became just the fifth pitcher in over a half-century of Oakland A’s history to reach 200 strikeouts in a season. After making his final start of the year on Wednesday, he took one more small step up the club’s record books.
Montas fanned seven batters against the Seattle Mariners, putting him at 207 for the summer. That’s the second-highest total ever by an Oakland pitcher in a single season, trailing just Vida Blue, who struck out 301 hitters in 1971.
- 301: Vida Blue, 1971
- 207: Frankie Montas, 2021
- 205: Dave Stewart, 1987
- 205: Todd Stottlemyre, 1995
- 205: Barry Zito, 2001
Making Montas’ achievement even more impressive is that it took him only 187 innings. No one else in the team’s 200 Strikeout Club got there in fewer than 200 frames, and Blue tossed 312 innings in his MVP season, during an era of larger workloads when that enormous number didn’t even lead the league. These days starters get shorter leashes, but strikeout rates are higher than ever — Montas finished with 10 K/9 in just under six innings per game.
Extend to all of franchise history, including the Philadelphia and Kansas City years, and Montas ranks 10th.
- 349: Rube Waddell, 1904 (in 383 innings)
- 302: Rube Waddell, 1903 (in 324 innings)
- 301: Vida Blue, 1971 (in 312 innings)
- 287: Rube Waddell, 1905 (in 328⅔ innings)
- 232: Rube Waddell, 1907 (in 284⅔ innings)
- 224: Jack Coombs, 1910 (in 353 innings)
- 210: Rube Waddell, 1902 (in 276⅓ innings)
- 210: Eddie Plank, 1905 (in 346⅔ innings)
- 209: Lefty Grove, 1930 (in 291 innings)
- 207: Frankie Montas, 2021 (in 187 innings)
Half the list is Waddell alone, and he, Plank, and Coombs played at a time when pitchers routinely topped 300 innings. Grove appeared in 50 games in his big year, including 18 out of the bullpen, retroactively credited with a league-leading nine saves a few decades before the stat was invented. Waddell, Plank, and Grove are in the Hall of Fame.
That’s great company for Montas, and his performance should earn him some national recognition. He won’t win the Cy Young, but he’ll get some votes. He ranks fourth in the AL in strikeouts, and among the league leaders in ERA and WAR.
- Montas: 3.37 ERA, 187 innings, 207 Ks, 57 BB, 20 HR, 3.36 FIP, .304 xwOBA
It’s been a long journey for the big right-hander. He dealt with injuries early in his career, then when he found his groove in the majors as a budding star in 2019 he was halted by a PED suspension. He struggled through a 5.60 ERA in the abbreviated 2020, and that continued with a 5.27 ERA this April.
But he finally settled back in the rest of this year, getting better and better as the summer went along until he was dealing like the ace we’d seen glimpses of before. The end result is a season line that gets a spot in the Oakland record books.