In baseball, a strikeout or strike out (denoted by K or SO) occurs when the batter receives three strikes during his time at bat. Strikeouts are associated with dominance on the part of the pitcher and incompetence on the part of the batter, although for power hitters it is recognized that the style of swing that generates home runs also leaves the batter somewhat susceptible to striking out.
A pitcher receives credit for (and a batter is charged with) a strikeout on any third strike, but a batter is only officially out if one of the following is true:
- the third strike is pitched and caught in flight;
- on any third strike, if a baserunner is on first and there are fewer than two outs;
Thus, it is possible for a batter to strikeout, but still reach base safely if the catcher fails or is unable to catch the third strike cleanly and cannot tag out the batter or force him out at first base. As a result, pitchers have occasionally been able to record four strikeouts in one half-inning.
In scoring, a swinging strikeout is recorded as a forwards-facing K, and a strikeout on a called third strike is recorded as a backwards-facing K.
Jargon and slang
A swinging strikeout is often called a whiff and a batter who is struck out by a fastball is often said to have been blown away. A batter who strikes out on a swung third strike is said to have been fanned. When a batter takes a called third strike its called a punchout, or said that the batter was caught looking. A pitcher is said to "strike out the side" when he retires all three batters in a half inning by striking them out, usually, but not necessarily, in a row. If they are struck out in a row, the pitcher is said to "strike out the side in order".
In slang, when a batter strikes out three times in a game, he is said to have completed a "hat trick". If he strikes out four times, it is a "golden sombrero" or a "silver sombrero". He receives the "Olympic rings" for striking out fives times and the "horn" for striking out a rare six times in a game.
In older times, a batter who struck out three times in a game was given a white hood (as the three strikeouts would be recorded "K K K"), but this died out after the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
Season and career strikeout totals for pitchers are followed closely by fans. The top 5 Major League Baseball career strikeout leaders (active players in bold):
- Nolan Ryan - 5714
- Roger Clemens - 4317
- Randy Johnson - 4153
- Steve Carlton - 4136
- Bert Blyleven - 3701
The top 5 Major League Baseball single-season strikeout leaders (since 1900):
- Nolan Ryan, 1973 - 383
- Sandy Koufax, 1965 - 382
- Randy Johnson, 2001 - 372
- Rube Waddell, 1904 - 349
- Bob Feller, 1946 - 348
- List of pitchers who have struck out 18 or more batters in a nine-inning baseball game
- 3000 strikeout club